Anyone living in New Orleans has felt the impact of the performance of the Sewerage & Water Board.
It’s no secret that equipment is inadequate, the management lacking, and the department is understaffed. One would think in a city that is under constant threat of flooding and hurricanes would have that under control. Still today, every small shower is still a major threat to residents and has the potential to cause massive damage.
The Sewerage & Water Board recently posted they will be holding a one-day hiring event to fill a potential 50 vacancies. But will this be enough? A report published in March 2018 by consulting firm, Veolia, paints a more serious situation.
Veolia was hired as a consultant by the S&WB to audit the city’s sewerage and drainage systems after the August 5th flood in 2017. According to the $5.8M contract, Veolia discovered over 170 critical issues with our current system that would cost exceedingly more than the $144M already provided via bonds for repairs.
This same study found extensive damage to the catch basins and street drainage systems around the city. Debris and garbage clogging and causing further damage has reduced their capacity by 22% the report finds. Veolia also tested 35 of the city’s 45 feeder lines. 30 of the 35 failed the test with 8 needing immediate repairs.
With the small day-only hiring event, the S&WB expects to relieve some of that burden from their already understaffed workload. However, as of May 2018, the S&WB human resources department reported 534 total vacancies. Many are due to positions added over the last two years, retirements, resignations, or terminations.
Desperate situations call for desperate measures, which unfortunately seem to plague the department. Maybe within these new 50 hires they will finally find someone who can show the level of competence we need to properly run a utility. Or maybe it will all continue to go down the drain as the city continues to live under threat of flooding.