An Engineering Feat that Beat Hurricane Isaac in N.O.

September 13, 2012


Hurricane Isaac reminded people in the city of New Orleans and around the country how important disaster preparedness is. While the storm was not as powerful as Hurricane Katrina, it still caused major flooding in Plaquemines, St. John’s, and St. Tammany Parishes in Louisiana.

Despite the significant regional flooding, the city of New Orleans experienced very little flooding, due in large part to $14 billion worth of levees and pumps built post-Katrina and designed to protect the city from another serious storm -- like Isaac. Isaac’s arrival two weeks ago put this new 130-mile system to test for the first time, with good results.

Once again, an investment in pre-disaster preparedness has led to significantly fewer negative impacts during and after the disaster.

What did it take to achieve success with this pre-disaster investment, the city of New Orleans’ infrastructural defense system? To find out, we interviewed the pump manufacturer that worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to design and implement the system.

Interview with Dave Angelo, VP of Sales, Pentair – Engineered Flow Technologies Unit

BCLC: Tell us about the pumps you designed for the New Orleans area. Where are they and what is special about them?

Dave Angelo: Pentair custom-designed 11 pumps for the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway West Closure Complex (GIWW), which was designed to protect the city from the storm surge. The station is located at the intersection of the Algiers and Harvey Street canals. The pumps discharge into the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which leads to the Gulf of Mexico.

Each pump weighs approximately 140,000 pounds, stands about 50 feet tall, and pumps 750,000 gallons of water per minute.

BCLC: How did you work with the Army Corps of Engineers or other government agencies to get the job done?

Angelo: The specification was developed by the Army Corp of Engineers. During the design review process and throughout the project, it was a collaborative effort with the Corp, the contractors, and our project team to ensure we had the best design and solution for the station.

BCLC: What prior experiences prepared your company for designing these pumps?

Angelo: We have over 100 years of experience in designing and manufacturing large pumps. In addition to the GIWW pumps, Pentair has numerous other pumps throughout many of the pump stations in New Orleans along the 22 miles of levees and floodwalls. Pentair has also designed and supplied several flood control pumps over the years to other flood risk areas. (Related: Pentair’s Hurricane Katrina response, 2005)

BCLC: How do you go about envisioning and executing something that’s never been done before?

Angelo: Since the GIWW is considered the largest flood control pump station in the world, this was a unique challenge due to the sheer size of the station and the pumps required for operation. With such large-scale pumps, the pumps could not be assembled in the Kansas City facility and then shipped to the job site. In the design process for some of the components, we had to consider how to transport those components to the job site where the final assembly would take place. Sub-assemblies for the bowls, for example, were assembled at a local shipyard and then sent by barge to the job site where final assembly was completed.

BCLC: How did the pumps perform in Isaac? Do you anticipate building additional pumps in the area as a result of that storm?

Angelo: The pumps performed extremely well and as expected. There is another station in design in New Orleans that we are bidding on, however, that station was planned prior to Hurricane Isaac.

This is a good example of how businesses are providing innovative solutions to community challenges. For more examples, read BCLC's 2012 publication on The Role of Business in Disaster Response

Photo Credit: Pentair, GIWW pump in action