Rain Could Help New Orleans

09.21.2005 | Energy and Environment, EngineeringA good rain from Hurricane Rita can go a long way in washing away dirt and other residue in the New Orleans area left behind by Hurricane Katrina, according to a University of Dayton civil engineering lecturer specializing in water and environmental resources.

"Of course, that is assuming the pump stations are fully operational," said Don Chase, a former U.S. Army engineer for the Waterways Experiment Station. "The pumps are designed to handle heavy rains."

Chase said fortifying the pumps against being submerged again and clearing all storm drains of trash should be among the region's top priorities in advance of a possible strike by Hurricane Rita. Otherwise, the area risks more localized flooding.

Any risk of the pumps backing up or clogging should be minimal, as they are designed to filter out debris and handle some sludge. Also, much of the sediment will run off before reaching the pumps.

The grime will be discharged into area streams, rivers and lakes, but Chase stressed the concerns of those on land should, for the moment, outweigh the environmental water concerns.

"There will be an environmental impact to dumping this material back into the rivers and lakes, but this is an emergency situation," Chase said.

If New Orleans takes a direct hit from Hurricane Rita, Chase said it is a "sitting duck" and the temporary levee patches probably would not hold.

"Should there be another event of Katrina's magnitude, there will be just as much flooding," Chase said. "The repairs maybe could withstand a Category 1 or possibly even a Category 2 storm. You also have to hope the flood walls that didn't fail during Katrina don't fail now."

Chase said the situation will improve once water and wastewater treatment plants come back online. After that, people can focus on structural damage.

For interviews, contact Don Chase at (937) 229-2980 or Shawn Robinson at (937) 229-3391.