S&WB spends tens of millions on water system repairs annually

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 24, 2013 at 10:28 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 24 at 10:41 PM

Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
Email: kmoore@wwltv.com | Twitter: @katiecmoore

NEW ORLEANS -- The Orleans Parish Sewerage & Water Board continued working on a massive broken water main Uptown Wednesday.

The board estimated in the past that the city’s water system needs more than $3 billion worth of work. They just secured $280 million to do some of it, but how much more are breaks in the antiquated system costing rate payers?

Monday’s water main break flooded several Uptown streets, around Hickory.

“I wasn't too surprised. I mean, it's New Orleans. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst,” said Jeff Smith, whose car got a few inches of water in it, but it was still drivable.

The intersection looked like a lake. Now the Sewerage & Water Board not only has to fix the pipe, but pay for the damage to people's property, like Smith's car.

“They just gave out some forms and said that, you know, if you have any receipts from going to get your car cleaned or if any damages get repaired, to fill it out and make sure you keep your receipt,” he said.

Officials said Wednesday that they were still encouraging people whose cars were damaged by the water main break to file a claim with the agency to get reimbursed for the repairs.

“We have to wait until everybody returns home to and see if there's any problems with their vehicles. But based on our initial observation we think there is ten to twenty,” said Marcia St. Martin, executive director of the water board.

Officials estimated that the main that broke was a cast iron pipe from the 1920s.

“We're spending about $4 million a year with contracts, but the vast majority of the water main repairs we do, on water main point repairs is done by our own crews and so that, we probably spend $20 million, $20 to $25 million a year just on water main point repairs,” said Joseph Becker, general superintendent of the water board.

The board estimates the water system needs more than $3 billion worth of work. FEMA funds and a fraction of the large rate increase recently enacted, which will span the next few years, will allow the board to do about $280 million worth.

“We have about 12 or 13 crews. Those crews are working six days a week. We probably do 40,000 repairs on sewer and water over the course of a year,” Becker said.

Becker said they just started working with the city's Department of Public Works to coordinate some proactive water system repairs with street resurfacing.

In the past, the agency has had to tear up many newly-paved streets to fix ancient, broken pipes.

St. Martin said the last water main break that caused this much damage was more than a decade ago.

 

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