NEW ORLEANS — A desperate situation.
That’s how New Orleans City Council member Jay Banks, who also serves on the city’s Sewerage and Water Board, describes the city’s public water system.
"We’ve got pumps,” Banks said. “We’ve got lines. We’ve got electrical connections. We’ve got generators, we’ve got all kinds of issues back there. That elephant is really big.”
Thursday, President Joe Biden is expected to tour the city’s Carrollton Water Plant as he promotes his more than $2-trillion proposal to invest in roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Tucked into the bill is $111-billion dollars to modernize aging drinking water, storm water, and waste water systems
Banks says the critical needs here are many here, while dollars to fix them are few and far between.
“We are hoping to get funding and the fact is the system is aged,” Banks said. "It is no longer even repairable. If something breaks, you have to make the part.”
Engineer H.J. Bosworth from the watch dog group Levees.org says what you don’t see is the real problem.
“The system that we know of with the water main breaks and 120-year-old pipes and all that others stuff,” Bosworth said. “That’s our concern.”
Over the years, the S&WB has gotten hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government to address power generation and other problems at the Carrollton plant.
Critics say the money has not always been spent wisely.
“Any blank check or check that the federal government gives to the Sewerage and Water Board should be followed by a dedicated person or team in the Sewerage and Water Board, looking over their shoulder and making sure that money isn’t wasted, money isn’t squandered,” Bosworth said.
Louisiana U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy is working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on an alternative infrastructure plan he claims would cost roughly half as much as the Biden plan, but spends more on roads and bridges.
“Whatever the plan is, I sincerely hope that New Orleans’ infrastructure is included in it,” Banks said. “I am hopeful (President Biden) will come and see that this is not only a good thing for New Orleans, but it’s a good thing for the country."
President Biden is scheduled to make two stops in Louisiana on Thursday.
He is also expected to visit Lake Charles.