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3 Major S&WB Pumps In New Orleans Down Before Arrival Of Soon-To-Be Hurricane Ida

Travis Lux / WWNO

As Tropical Storm Ida gains speed and churns towards the Louisiana coast, where it’s expected to land as a hurricane, the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) says their infrastructure is ready to handle the storm despite three major pumps being down.

Of the city's 99 drainage pumps, 96 are up and running. The three that are out of service are in New Orleans East and Lakeview.

One of the down pumps is DPS 12, which pumps portions of Lakeview and Mid-City. While most of the city lies below sea level, parts of Lakeview are more than four feet below sea level, making it especially susceptible to flooding.

In a statement, SWB said engineers believe that, were the system to be inundated with water, the other pumps in the area — DPS 7 and DPS 6 — would be capable of draining that basin because the canals are interconnected.

“We always want 99 of 99, but the reality is that we’re never in a situation where we can run all 99 pumps at the same time,” said Barnes.

The agency issued a public update, saying there are currently two turbines, which generate power for the pumps, operating — Turbines 5 and 6. Turbine 4 is out of service for repairs but the S&WB plans to test it on Saturday, a day before the soon-to-be hurricane is supposed to arrive.

Barnes said they hope to get it back up and running after that.

“We don’t have as much backup power as we would like, but it’s enough,“ said spokesperson Courtney Barnes.

The agency has come under fire in recent years for aging and faulty infrastructure, which has exacerbated flooding in some areas, such as Mid-City. The agency has been on a campaign to rebuild public trust with ongoing infrastructure repairs, staffing changes and adding power generation capacity.

Tropical Storm Ida is forecast to reach Louisiana on Sunday, though the exact landfall location is uncertain as of Thursday afternoon. It could be at or near major hurricane strength, bringing with it dangerous storm surge and heavy rainfall.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and local listeners.

Tegan has reported on the coast for WWNO since 2015. In this role she has covered a wide range of issues and subjects related to coastal land loss, coastal restoration, and the culture and economy of Louisiana’s coastal zone, with a focus on solutions and the human dimensions of climate change. Her reporting has been aired nationally on Planet Money, Reveal, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace, BBC, CBC and other outlets. She’s a recipient of the Pulitzer Connected Coastlines grant, CUNY Resilience Fellowship, Metcalf Fellowship, and countless national and regional awards.

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