Lafitte — The failure of several Lafitte, Barataria and Crown Point drainage pumps during Hurricane Isaac remains a concern for residents and officials there who are worried that a repeat of the problem could lead to flooding in the future.
Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts has requested an investigation into why several pumps in the community failed to work or broke down during the preparations for Hurricane Isaac. Although the eventual flooding from Bayou Barataria rendered the pumps’ failure inconsequential, the breakdowns were still troubling, Roberts said. He noted that a similar breakdown occurred this past weekend during heavy rains as well.
Roberts has requested service records for all of the pumps in the area, and he wants to know the maintenance schedule for the equipment. He’s asked the parish administration to turn over that information by the end of this month.
“The information we got was that they may not be maintained,” said Roberts, noting that there were complaints of inadequate oil and faulty equipment. “It’s not something you can just ignore and expect to operate when you need them.”
Parish drainage director Mitch Theriot acknowledged that at least four pumps in the area failed during Isaac but said the problem was the increased workload and debris from Isaac, not poor maintenance. At times debris can become caught in pumps and damage the motor, and high water can do the same. He said pumps in those areas are checked at least once per week and typically more frequently.
“We had a few issues storm-related,” Theriot said. “We had some incidental problems.”
Theriot said one of the problems was that parish workers didn’t initially have high water vehicles or boats, so they couldn’t immediately access pumps when the water level rose.
Some of those pumps stopped working when they ran out of fuel or weren’t turned on, he said.
Theriot suggested that the parish might need to install backup pumps at some locations. During Isaac the motors on two pumps went out completely, which would have only been fixed with a backup pump. He also noted that when water levels get high in the bayou, it becomes counterproductive to quickly pump water from streets because that water will only seep back in along the bayou.
Parish employees are creating punch lists for each pumping station, and Theriot will provide that information to council. He expects to have most repairs made by the end of the month.
“We really hadn’t had any issues with the pumps until Isaac,” Theriot said.
Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner said it was disturbing when he and others were setting up sandbags in the rain and they heard a pump shut down, but ultimately it wouldn’t have saved his community from the damage wrought by Isaac. However, he would like to see parish officials reach an agreement because future rainfall still presents a problem.
“Those pumps have been around for a while, and they are constantly working during hurricane season,” Kerner said. “It’s something to manage and make sure it never happens again.”
In a separate request, Parish Councilman Ricky Templet has requested that the parish hire an engineer to create plans for the installation of flood control gates and pumping stations in the Lafitte, Barataria and Crown Point areas to reduce flooding during storm and rain events. Jefferson Parish also is ramping up its home elevation program, and Lafitte, Barataria and Crown Point are areas of focus for that effort.
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved