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So we had two quick inches of rain this morning and three (more) of our pumps caught on fire...Katrina's two+ weeks of submerging a majority of the city in salt water continues to give us problems...Once again, thank you Federal Government for failing the million plus US taxpayers in this area in such a grand way...hey, fix the damn levees while you're at it....

Beleaguered but vital New Orleans pumps catching fire

08:49 PM CDT on Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Brett Martel / Associated Press

Three massive drainage pumps, each of which can move 7,500 gallons of rain water per second out of city streets, caught fire during stormy weather on Wednesday and will be out of commission for at least a month, Sewerage and Water Board officials said.

"We're fortunate in the fact that it was at three different pumping stations, so it doesn't reduce capacity that bad at one station," board general superintendent G. Joseph Sullivan said.

But it does potentially bode ill for the city's ability to fight flooding this storm season and as returning residents attempt to rebuild following last year's devastating flooding during Hurricane Katrina.

Numerous pump motors were submerged in salt water that spilled into the city from Lake Pontchartrain after major levee breaks caused by Katrina. The pumps were later dried out and still work, but the salt is believed to have compromised the insulation of old copper wiring in the pump motors, Sullivan said.

"Salt water and 100-year-old insulation on wires is not compatible," he said.

Two other dried out pumps already have caught fire since Katrina but have been repaired, Sullivan said.

Three emergency repair contracts will be bid out starting Thursday morning, he said, and repairs on each pump would last at least one month.

Sullivan declined to say how much he expected the repairs to cost, preferring to wait out the bidding process. However, he said numerous other pump motors that were submerged continue to rely on the same type of salt-damaged insulation that has now caught fire on five separate pumps.

Because the salt-water flooding was caused by breaks in federal levees, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has pledged to bid out and pay contracts to fix the wiring and bearings in all pump motors submerged in salt water after Katrina.

However, the Corps, focusing much of its attention on levee repairs, has yet to bid out any of those contracts and does not expect the work to be complete until September 2007, Corps spokeswoman Kim Gillespie said.

The Corps did not have any immediate comment on whether it would seek to speed the pace of repairs in light of five fires that have now taken place.

Southern Louisiana has been in drought conditions for about a year, with minimal rain other than when hurricanes Katrina and Rita came ashore in the state. The approximately 1.5 inches of rain that fell during Wednesday's three pump fires was the first significant rain in months.

The effect of the pump fires was not immediately clear. Only minor and temporary street flooding was reported around the city, which is common in New Orleans during heavy rain.
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