Leaking Water System in New Orleans Hinders Firefighters

June 9, 2006

More than 85 million gallons of drinking water are leaking into the ground every day through breaks in the city’s hurricane-fractured water system, hindering firefighting efforts and forcing closures of municipal buildings.

That comes despite the recent repair of a crack blamed for leaking 15 million gallons per day, using a process that cut water pressure and led to problems with firefighting and complaints from residents, city officials say.

By comparison, New Orleans residents are paying to use about 50 million gallons per day, said Marcia St. Martin, executive director of the Sewerage & Water Board.

One problem is that underground leaks are difficult to locate, especially with so few residents around to report them in the hardest-hit neighborhoods, St. Martin said.

“That’s still just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

The water board has hired a contractor using a sounding device to search for breaks.

In the meantime, the water pressure problem prompted several days of complaints from residents, first in the Gentilly section and then throughout the east bank of New Orleans, of low water pressure or no water at all flowing from their faucets.

Two municipal buildings in the Central Business District, City Hall and the New Orleans Civil Court Building, closed early June 7 after low water pressure affected restrooms and air conditioners.

Low pressure also forced firefighters on June 6 to call in an extra tanker truck to fight a residential blaze in Gentilly. A helicopter was called in to drop water on another house fire in Gentilly on June 7.

The water board already informs the fire department when repairs could interrupt the availability of water to fight fires, St. Martin said.

Information from: The Times-Picayune, www.timespicayune.com.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.