Technical Issues Facing the Sewerage & Water Board

There are several technical issues that any leader of the City should be familiar with.

Municipal water management includes 4 systems:
• Drinking water supply
• Wastewater Treatment
• Storm-water management
• Metering

Of these four, the storm-water management system is the easiest to design and operate, and the easiest to get right. The system is largely passive – just collect the water and deliver it to the pumps. By contrast, the drinking water supply requires pre-treatment and treatment and continual testing. Wastewater treatment has challenging distribution issues, treatment issues, and testing. In my experience at United Water, if there are significant problems with storm-water management, then even larger problems are lurking with the other systems.

To my mind, the major technical challenges facing the water systems are:
• Aging infrastructure. As many people already know, the condition of the S&WB infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate. S&WB operates with 40% unaccounted water, that is, the water supply leaks into the ground, due to weaknesses in the supply lines. S&WB needs to keep the incoming water pressure extra-high in order to keep groundwater from leaking in and poisoning our drinking water.
• Outdated power supply. 25 cycle power went out of fashion almost a century ago. The S&WB operates a machine shop for turbine and pump parts because the existing plant is so old that replacements are otherwise unavailable. New Orleans’ pump and power system is like the old cars in Cuba – the repair shop mechanics are excellent, but the underlying process is expensive and prone to failure. By continuing to nurse this old system, we are only prolonging the inevitable.
• Problems in the system for storm-water collection, i.e. catch basins. At the current rates of service, it will take 18 years for each catch basins to be cleaned out, by which time the first to be serviced will be long overdue for follow-ups.

Technical Solutions

• Deploy Automated Meter reading, a technology which has been in place for 20-years in other cities. Currently, the S&WB uses staff to perform this function. Errors are bound to occur.
• Commit to engineering migration away from 25-cycle power system, which is unreliable, expensive, and difficult to maintain. A multi-feed multi-fuel power solution can be reliable and fault tolerant.
• Deploy a 50-year pipe main replacement strategy. It is a standard practice with most progressive cities in the USA.
• Consistently clean the catch basins, and over-maintain those in low lying areas.
• Provide real-time water quality testing and publish the results. We have a Lead problem in this City and every potential remedy should be evaluated.
• Implement a barrel-aging management system – based on RFID and/or GPS – that allows a barrel to stay in place for a maximum of 21 days. We currently have orange barrels on our streets for years. A long-standing barrel is not only an aesthetic issue – it is a sign of a festering, unsolved problem.
• Implement a leak tracking and resolution system. Any citizen should be able to report a leak and see where it sits in the priority queue and how long it takes to fix. Leaks do not go away by themselves – they must be identified and tracked.

Vote Troy Henry for Mayor!

About Troy Henry: Born and raised in New Orleans. I have lived in other places, and I could live and work anywhere in the world, but I am proud to call New Orleans my home.

By training and experience, I am an engineer. I have a total of 3 bachelors and master’s degrees in engineering, from Stanford University and Carnegie-Mellon University. One of my early assignments at Hewlett-Packard was designing cardiac medical detection devices. Later on, at IBM Federal Services, I worked on the design of sonar and weapon systems for the Los Angeles Class attack submarines. At IBM Global Services, I managed high availability fault-tolerant solutions for the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical industry. At EES, I ran an entire organization devoted to providing critical industrial power systems solutions. These systems had to work, all the time, whenever the situation demanded it. They did. In short, for most of my career I have created practical solutions to real problems in the physical world.

At United Water, I was the President of the largest private water utility in the USA. We managed drinking water supply, storm-water and wastewater treatment systems for cities across the country, including Atlanta GA, Jacksonville FL, and Laredo TX.

I am also the owner of a home flooded by Katrina, and of a business flooded just recently by the storms of August 5th. Inadequate planning and service from the City and the Sewerage and Water Board affected me personally.

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