NEW ORLEANS – Sewerage & Water Board officials said some pumping stations in some of the hardest hit areas during Saturday's flood were operating at 52 percent capacity.
S&WB General Superintendent Joe Becker said that 14 out of the 121 pumps in New Orleans were inactive because of routine maintenance. On Monday, S&WB officials first said 7 pumps were offline.
Of the 14 pumps not working, six were "constant duty" pumps, which operate at a low capacity and would have had negligible impact on the rising water, Becker told the City Council during a contentious special meeting called to discuss the flooding and its aftermath.
For pumping station No. 6, which serves Lakeview and Mid-City, four of the 13 pumps were out of service. As a low part of the city, water that wasn't pumped out would flow into the Lakeview area, putting further strain on the already hampered pump system and raising water levels in the neighborhood, Becker said.
Becker originally said that all active pumping stations were working at "max capacity," but said he misspoke and that all pumping stations were working at "the capacity they had available to them."
"Without those pumps on, the flooding event was significantly longer than if we'd had them working," Becker said.
Tuesday's meeting was called after questions arose about it the pumps were operating properly.
Constantly changing information since Saturday led Executive Director Cedric Grant to announce Tuesday he would retire in the fall.
"We have been told lies, and that's the truth," said Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell.
The city's drainage system is designed to pump 1 inch in the first hour and 1/2 inch every hour thereafter. That translates to 3 inches in the first five hours. Some parts of the city received as much as 9 or 10 inches of water.
Becker said clogged catch basins also were to blame for any slow drainage. Last week, a City Council committee and the Department of Public Works heard from citizens across New Orleans who said they have seen no work to clear catch basins, despite claims that crews are in the streets to clean and repair them.
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