By now we’ve all seen the images — water pouring through broken levees,hurricane survivors waiting on rooftops awaiting rescue from their floodedhomes, waterfront communities completely washed away leaving nothing butfoundations, scattered debris and overturned cars.

Hurricane Katrina, which slammed into the Gulf Coast Aug. 29, already isconsidered among the worst natural disasters to hit the United States — in termsof lives lost and damage to businesses, residences and infrastructure.

Being the largest city in the hurricane’s path, New Orleans suffered theworst of the disaster. According to reports, nearly 80 percent of the city wasunder water at some point, and residents were just being allowed to return tosome parts of the city with higher elevations nearly a month after theevent.

Naturally, the City’s infrastructure was hard hit and represents the majorfocus before city officials can begin rebuilding in earnest and regain itsposition as a popular tourist destination and important commercial hub. To makematters worse, Hurricane Rita hit the Gulf Coast three weeks after Katrina,compromising weakened levees and flooding parts of New Orleans a secondtime.

Nearly a month after the disaster, Trenchless Technology spoke with MartyDorward of MWH and program manager for the Sewerage and Water Board of NewOrleans. He provided an update on the sewer and water infrastructure serving thecity:

“The Sewerage and Water Board now has power up and running, and bothtreatments plants [one on the west side of the Mississippi River and one on theeast side] are operating and can deliver water; it’s the distribution systemthat needs fixing,” Dorward said. “SWB has inspection teams searching for leaksto improve pressure and ensure that water is
disinfected when it’sdelivered.

These leaks can be anything from hydrants that have been knocked over tosimply taps that have been left running. Contractors have been hired to repairthe leaks, which probably amount to hundreds a day. Hurricane Rita delayed theprocess by about a week, but now crews are back at it.

It’s going to take a while before the whole system can be evaluated. “As faras the wastewater system, the west bank was ok for the most part, but thewastewater treatment plant on the east side, which comprises 90 percent of theCity including downtown, was under water. The first order of business is gettingthe floodwater out of the City, so there hasn’t been a lot of work down with thetreatment plant yet and the extent of the damage is unknown.

“It’s going to be a systematic process. First we need to be able to restorewater, sewer, electric and communications services, then health care andemergency services before we can bring businesses and residents back in.”

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