A section of metal sheet piling at the 17th Street Canal, which was being used to build a temporary staging area for the construction of a new pumping station, toppled over Monday. No one was injured.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the project, said early indications were that the accident was not the result of any problems with the material or the engineering involved in the project.
Corps spokesman Ricky Boyett said officials were still assessing the situation.
“We will continue to evaluate and assess all the information we can to make sure of the reason,” he said.
Andy Oates, who lives in a condominium complex near the construction site, said he was observing the work around noon when he saw a crane lowering the piling into position. While that’s a normal part of the construction, he said, the crane stopped just before the piling touched the ground. That left the piling hanging.
“For one reason or another it started tilting — which I thought was unusual — and all of a sudden it fell and hit the row of other pilings and turned them over,” Oates said.
The sheet piling was being installed as part of a wall for a cofferdam, a temporary structure intended to block off a part of the mouth of the canal so crews can drain the water from that area. The structure is not intended to be a permanent part of the project, and it did not appear there was any damage to any of the permanent walls or other structures that are part of the canal or the temporary pumping station at the site.
The corps has been installing cofferdams — which are then filled with sand — in the canal to create a staging area for equipment that will dig into the canal to build a foundation for the permanent pump station.
That station, along with similar projects on the Orleans Avenue and London Avenue canals, is one of the last major parts of the $14.5 billion upgrade to the metropolitan area’s hurricane risk reduction system that was designed after the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina.
More information on the accident was not immediately available.
“At this point, we cannot provide you with the full details because members of our Army Corps and contractor team are continuing to assess the situation,” Boyett said in an email. “Our primary goals are to ensure the safety of everyone, the security of the facility, and to provide the most accurate information as quickly as possible.”
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