KENNER, La. —
Inside the board room at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, there’s of optimism from contractors and staff that progress is being made at the new terminal.
“We got the sewer breaks that we’re working very hard on and I’m glad to report that about 88 percent of the actual plumbing pieces has been repaired and inspected by inspectors,” Construction Manager Charlie Prewitt said.
There have been more than 100 breaks in sewage pipes under the terminal. Exclusive images show massive holes cut into the foundation. Some holes plunge deep into the dirt to make room for repairs.
But airport officials are downplaying the breaks. They say the issue is "minor" and breaks are expected on major projects.
“As we move into the next two to three weeks, that will all behind us,” Prewitt said.
But earlier this week, Kenner's top building official James Mohamad told Eyewitness Investigators that problems with the plumbing will continue over the life of the project.
“It’s a problem we’re gonna have for the life of the project. When I’m gone, they’re still gonna have problems out there,” Mohamad said.
Still, the New Orleans Aviation Board said the rapidly sinking soil is under control.
“Obviously with any big project like this, unforeseen conditions can occur. It happens in any major construction project, around the country and the world. But, based on what we’re seeing and hearing right now, we don’t believe there will be any substantial problems,” Vice Chairman of the Aviation Board Doug Thornton said.
Project managers admit the soil under the terminal is already sinking in spots anywhere from six to ten inches. Mohamad and experts say that’s not normal in just three years.
Contractors trucked in tons of sand to keep the ground from sinking before construction began to do what’s called “surcharging the soil.”
WWL-TV asked Chris Spann, Project Manager of the North Terminal if the surcharging was effective.
“Oh, it was absolutely effective. But as you guys know, in Southeast Louisiana, the soil here is settling,” Spann said.
Even with the setbacks, the board says they’re on target to open the new terminal this fall.
“We believe sometime this fall we’ll open. We don’t want to give a specific date just yet because we’re in the final stage of doing our punch list - 3 or 4 things that need to be completed,” Thronton said.
That shortlist has to include the sewage pipe repairs.