Keeping the pumps in good operating condition fell largely on the shoulders of service and setup technicians supplied by the pump vendors. For example, Godwin Pumps provided a two-person crew working in 12-hour shifts; staff from Thompson Pump and Service Pump also assisted in setup and service. In all cases, the technicians helped out "without regard to whose name was on the pump," says Dupuy. "All these guys wanted to make a difference and they did so without hesitation."
Ultimately, unwatering the city was a "pretty inconceivable feat," Dupuy admits. Yet, it was accomplished in an amazingly short period of time. "Initially, we thought we would be there about three months," he says. "It did come off a whole lot quicker than everybody thought.
Dupuy attributes the shorter duration to the dedication of the Cajun employees and the pump and equipment vendors who put their hearts and souls into the task. "We called guys off of other jobs and Labor Day vacations, and we made calls at all hours of the day and night," he states. "Not one said 'no'."
Cajun Constructors continues to be actively involved in various phases of the hurricane recovery, including restoration of damaged water and sewer plants, repairing underground pipelines, restoring damaged flood walls around New Orleans, etc. It has even assisted in setting up several FEMA trailer parks established in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans area.
"That's a new market," says Dupuy. "We weren't really in the trailer park business, but they came to us because we knew how to put the infrastructure in place."
Making it livable
Although the flood waters are long since gone, pumps continue to play a key role in returning the hardest hit parts of New Orleans to livable conditions. After the initial emergency had passed, the city put contracts out for bid to supply temporary pumps to lift stations throughout the city. Many of the electric submersible pumps in the lift stations had been damaged or remained without electrical service.
The goal was to restore basic services so residents could move back as quickly as possible. "Once the city got an area cleaned up, they started letting people come back in," notes Johnny Britt, Gulf Coast Region Manager, Thompson Pump. "They wouldn't open an area until it was livable."
Thompson Pump was awarded a contract to supply 17 lift stations with 6-, 8- and 12-in. EnviroPrime diesel-powered trash pumps. Each lift station can support roughly 200 homes or 100 businesses. However, the pumps are largely servicing the FEMA trailer parks now in place.
The size of pump placed is based on historic demand for the particular area. "We look at the chart and see what the performance was of the pumps they had in the hole. Then we compare it to one of our engine-driven portable pumps," Britt explains. The pump is delivered to the lift station, then tied into the force main connected to the treatment plant. Floats are used to kick the pump on and off — whenever the floats reach a certain level, the pump automatically starts up.
Initially, the pumps were contracted to be in place for three months. "They extended the contract and they think we could be there for a while," says Britt. "Before they remove one of our pumps, they have to get power run to the lift station. Once they do that, they test to see if the pumps that are down in the hole are still functional. If so, they remove our pump. If not, they have to pull those pumps out of the lift station and send them to get repaired. That takes a period of time."
Keeping the diesel-powered pumps in operation over several months requires constant diligence. "As part of the contract, the city requires us to check the pumps at least twice a day," says Britt. "We do it more than that. We want to make sure these things are running."
A crew with a service truck checks the pumps frequently, ensuring they are fueled, serviced and performing properly.
Recently, Thompson was awarded a second contract for 11 pumps to accommodate additional lift stations. The pumps are currently being installed in the Ninth Ward and New Orleans East, which experienced some of the worst damage.
"The areas we're in right now are areas where you can't even drive down because the houses are off their slabs in the road," says Britt. "You could probably go down there right now and still see refrigerators and cars in trees."