The Future Of New Orleans’ Generations-Old Turbines

The New Orleans City Council Members. Councilman Giarrusso and Coucilman Banks pictured at the top right. Photo Courtesy of: counil.nola.gov

By Darreonna Davis, Howard University News Service

New Orleans has experienced thunderstorms within a week of each other, and the weather is expected to worsen throughout this week. The Public Works, Sanitation and Environment Committee pushed their meeting a day earlier to discuss with the Sewerage and Water Board [S&WB] to discuss the state of the city’s turbines.

On March 18, just one day after the S&WB issued a tornado watch in the city, executive director Ghassan Korban met with the committee. Director Korban outlined how their team managed the storm last Wednesday.

“We put turbine one online. We also put four of ENTs online as well. We managed the storm pretty well,” he proclaimed. According to Korban, weatherization in New Orleans will begin within a couple of months and they are purchasing turbines with 22 or more megawatts for the city as well.

This message comes after two of the S&WB’s turbines failed when hurricane Zeta, a category 2 hurricane, struck New Orleans in late October 2020. According to nola.com, the S&WB has had three turbines fail–one that actually exploded–since 2019.

Despite the fact, the S&WB has had some organizational success. According to an August 2020 sewerage system update by the company, “over 291,000 feet of sewer pipe and 2,600 sewer manholes” was rehabilitated.

Councilmember Jay H. Banks , a member of the Public Works, Sanitation and Environment Committee and an S&WB board member, deemed it necessary that Korban and other members of the S&WB’s team share information about their successes, as well as the state of the turbines, as often as possible to restore the public’s faith in the organizations. “I don’t think we do enough to actually illustrate the good stuff that happens… Sewerage and Water Board has two major issues: infrastructure and image,” he said.  He and other council members urged the S&WB to develop an effective communication strategy for sharing accurate information.

Councilmember Joseph I. Giarrusso III, the chair of the Public Works, Sanitation and Environment Committee, however, believes that the positivity for the agency will come as a result of quality work. “If the image is going to be corrected it’s because the problems are being addressed, and the public feels like the problems are being addressed. We’re not here for headlines, we’re here to see solutions,” he said. 

One thing the two men certainly agreed on was the significance of restoring the turbines in New Orleans. “There’s no more single important infrastructure issue in the city of New Orleans than ensuring Sewerage and Water Board is powered correctly,” Councilman Giarrusso said.

The south has been experiencing severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail storms and damaging winds for over a month now.

 “Everybody sees or saw what happened in Jackson; I firmly believe that we ain’t but an[n] eyeblink away from Jackson,” Councilman Banks said. Residents of Jackson, MS, were without clean running water for over a month due to a weather storm.

The S&WB’s quarterly report is due in April, and the councilmembers requested for updates on turbines and customer service plans with numbers and results.