There was a long gap between when it became apparent there was a problem to when it was diagnosed, which the Corps attributes to initial false leads and the complicated process of inspecting the pumps’ interior.
In July 2021, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, which oversees the system on the east bank, was carrying out routine maintenance at the London Avenue Canal station and saw a pump overheating. It notified state authorities, who alerted the Corps, said authority regional director Kelli Chandler.
Early theories included the possibility that the pump station building had sunk and the pump had fallen out of line, or that the temperature sensor may have been faulty – both of which turned out to be incorrect. After troubleshooting failed, it was determined in May 2022 that the pump needed a deeper inspection.
The Corps “does not have the necessary in-house equipment and resources to dewater, inspect and repair the pump,” said Boyett, so it had to hire another company, Lakey Inc., to perform those tasks.
The system had enough capacity for last year’s hurricane season, according to the Corps.
When the bay holding the pump could be drained and the pump taken apart, corrosion was determined as the cause in February, which led to concerns that there was a systemic problem throughout all pumps, said Boyett.
Inspections elsewhere have been underway, starting with the smaller pumps first at Orleans and 17th Street. Minor corrosion was found at two Orleans pumps, with one already cleaned up and the other being addressed. Work is also ongoing at the London Avenue pump that first came to authorities’ attention.
“The Corps has assured us that they will do everything necessary to move water, whether it’s temporary pumps, whether it’s different alternative measures,” said Chandler. “They feel confident that they can move the water out of the canals if we have an event.”
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