New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board director Cedric Grant blamed widespread flooding over the weekend on “climate change,” but it wasn’t long before news broke that broken water pumps were actually to blame.
Throughout the week, media reports have shown that New Orleans’s antiquated water pumping system failed to keep flooding at bay, and the problem hasn’t been resolved.
The mayor’s office warned Thursday morning a fire had taken out a turbine that powers most water pumping stations in the East Bank of New Orleans.
With more heavy rain forecast for this week, Mayor Mitch Landrieu is asking residents to prepare for flooding. August is also hurricane season, a time when pumping stations are vital to keeping storm drains from being overwhelmed.
That’s a very different message from city officials earlier in the week when Grant blamed flooding over the weekend on climate change.
“The frustration is that we are now in a different era,” Grant said Sunday, the day after the city was inundated by about nine inches of rain in three hours.
“We are in an era of climate change, where we have these rains every week, every month,” Grant said. “And it’s not just us. It’s the rest of the country that’s experiencing the same weather patterns.”
City officials reassured residents that all water pump stations were working at full capacity, but subsequent media reports indicated this was not the case.
Some of the pumps “were offline due to maintenance” and another “pump station operated at just 52 percent capacity,” CBS News reported. “Pumping stations in two of the hardest-hit areas went down to half- to two-thirds capacity on Saturday,” the Associated Press noted.
So, why did the water pumping system fail so badly? Some of New Orleans’s pump stations rely on a turn-of-the-20th-Century power plant that’s not able to power every pump during a heavy downpour.
NOLA.com reporter Chelsea Brasted has the details:
— chelsea brasted (@cabrasted) August 10, 2017
Only one of the five pumps uses a modern 60-cycle electricity, and city officials say it could “power 38 of the 58 pumps on the west side of the Industrial Canal on the east bank,” WWLTV reported.
Grant told New Orleans city council members he would retire after hurricane season ends. Public Works Director Mark Jernigan will resign as well.
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