Fix the pumps

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Debris Part 7

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14

One would think after having massive debris problems exposed on the front page of the paper, as happened on June 12, 2011, the Corps and their contractors would be moving heaven and earth to eliminate those problems before the next time the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - West inspector came knocking. One would be wrong.

This week we got a look at the report for the first SLFPA-W inspection to occur after that article appeared (inspection date: June 17, 2011) at deeply troubled project WBV-14c.2 (contractor - Phylway, dirt source - River Birch). The debris has been so bad there that I've devoted two entire entries to it (Parts 1 and 4) and the Times-Picayune's Paul Rioux had it in a featured role in his article.

Despite all that attention, nothing has changed at this project, and that includes the bizarre Corps paranoia during SLFPA-W inspections. The report begins:
- SLFPA-W reps met with Jeremy George (USACE) at the construction trailers at 7:11am. Work progress was reviewed and USACE conducted site visit. Chad Thibodeaux (USACE) arrived on site at 7:43am, and remained 50yds behind other participants of site visit."

There's even pictures of this behavior following this description:

I don't know if the guy in the top picture is Jeremy George or Chad Thibodeaux, but it doesn't really matter. Their behavior during this inspection appears to have been only slightly less looney than during the June 10, 2011 inspection:
"SLFPAW reps arrived at the construction trailers at 10:22am and met with Jeremy George (USACE), Chad Thibodeux (USACE), Lauren Fagerholm (USACE), and Susan Poag (Times-Picayune). USACE conducted site visit while remaining 50 yds behind SLFPAW reps. USACE also video-recorded SLFPAW reps throughout site visit."

So, moving on from the Corps melodrama, here's what the June 17th report says about the project:
- East end of project (Sta.182+00 to Sta.120+00):
The levee in this area is up to elevation 13.0' on the ends of this section, and elevation 12.0' in the middle. A considerable amount of concrete and wood debris was found in the levee section during site visit. Pickers have not yet picked this area.

A 6in lift has been placed from Sta.120+00 to 157+00 on the protected side berm in this area. A considerable amount of wood debris was found in this area during site visit. This area had not yet been picked. Sta.161+00 to Sta.171+00 of the protected side berm had been picked and compacted by the contractor earlier in the week.

- North/South Levee and protected side berm (Sta.109+00 to Sta.70+00):
Sta.109+00 to Sta.89+00 of the levee in this area had been fine-graded and is acceptable. A few stones and wood debris were found throughout the remaining levee section and the protected side berm of this area. Jeremy George (USACE) removed most of debris immediately.

- West end of project (Sta.55+00 to Sta.0+00)
A 6in lift has been placed on the protected side berm of this project from Sta.29+00 to Sta.11+00. Some small stones and wood debris were found in this area. This area has not yet been picked. No further degrading of the levee has taken place in this area."

Put simply, there's still debris throughout the site. There's no excuse for this when other projects are able to report no debris problems.

As is usual with reports from WBV-14c.2, there's mounds of debris pictures. This time around, they take up 22 pages. Here's a sample:

This project just needs to be shut down. After nearly nine months of unrelenting reports of debris coming from it, it's appears the Corps and the contractor aren't interested in addressing the problem.

The debris problems continue elsewhere. In Part 5 we noted that WBV-14a.2 (contractor: Purnell), a 3 mile long levee project on the west bank of the Harvey canal, has had its share of debris problems. They continue, as documented in the June 6, 2011 report of the SLFPA-W inspection on June 3, 2011:
"SLFPA-W began site visit at approx. Sta.964+50 where geotextile was being installed in this area at elevation 1.0'. Lift 8 is being placed on top of the geotextile. A 12 man picking crew was out picking debris from the material that was being hauled in."

A twelve man crew sounds like progress. However,
"No work has been done since last report [on May 23, 2011] from Sta.935+00 to Sta.951+00. The debris in this area will be picked before the next lift is placed."

"SLFPAW expressed their concerns about the debris being hauled into the jobsite. USACE rep assured SLFPAW that all material will be picked with the same 12-man crew."

"We know we've said a gajillion times the debris will be picked up before the next inspection, but this time we really mean it! So don't pay attention to this:"

And that's what we can see on the surface.

The quote above mentions the prior WBV-14a.2 report. So what did that report, from May 23, 2011, say about this area?
"3rd lift was being placed and disked between approximate stations 935+0 and 941+00. The crew was working ahead of the material being placed and appeared to be removing all of the debris. SLFPA-W and USACE reviewed area between the picking crew and the material being placed and found it free of debris."

So debris showed up on June 6th in an area that was being picked and appeared clean on May 23rd. Is it possible the Corps and their contractors have been playing a shell game with debris picking? That is, when the SLFPA-W inspectors are out, do the Corps and their contractors deploy debris picking crews (sometimes), or claim the area will be picked by the next visit? I ask because when the inspectors do their due diligence at the next visit and check the claims of debris picking, they find it was all a show.

The following inspection of WBV-14a.2 (on June 14, 2011) also included an appearance of a picking crew:
"Sta.973+00 to Sta.960+00. Contractor is currently picking this area and preparing for another lift."

Here's the picking crew at work:

The report also says:
"Sta.973+00 to Sta.960+00 was examined by SLFPA-W reps and is clean enough for the next lift to be placed on top of this material."

Due to the brevity of this report, it is unclear if the inspectors revisited the section of the project noted for debris in the June 6th inspection report (Sta.935+00 to Sta.951+00); it only notes no work had taken place there since the last inspection. Also there aren't any debris photos in this report. Both of those appear to be because SLFPA-W inspector David Roark was not along on this inspection. He tends to write very detailed reports and take lots of pictures.

So it appears the debris problems, while perhaps lessening at some projects, remain severe at others. This does not bode well.


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