After several days of statements and information, then new statements and updated information, several New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board officials have stepped down or face firings after floodwaters inundated the city last weekend.
S&WB Executive Director Cedric Grant first announced his retirement on Tuesday in a statement that said his agency was not "forthright" in their assessment of the drainage pump system's effectiveness.
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In a special meeting with the New Orleans City Council, Grant and S&WB General Superintendent Joe Becker answered pointed questions over the system's efficiency, how many pumps were down and why the information was not immediately available.
Becker told Council members all pumps were working at "max capacity."
He immediately clarified that all the pumps were working at the "capacity they had available to them."
Several Council members were visibly frustrated throughout the meeting, with Councilman James Gray offering a telling soundbite.
“I thought we were on a witch hunt," he said. "But I feel like we found witches.
While watching New Orleans Councilman James Gray's growing exasperation as he grilled Sewera…
Below is the timeline for the information as it was provided and changed by the S&WB:
Aug. 5: Rain overwhelms, floods much of city
A "50- to 100-year event" poured up to 9.5 inches of rain in some places across New Orleans, causing several areas to see feet of water as the storm overwhelmed the city's drainage system.
Officials said that all 24 city pumping stations were operational and active throughout the storm.
Aug. 6: No indication pumps weren't working at max capacity
"We have no information that suggests that the pumps weren't working as designed," said Deputy Mayor Ryan P. Berni adding: "We're going back over to make sure there weren't any minor issues."
Cedric Grant added "there is no drainage system in the world that could handle that immediately."
Aug. 7: Several pumps inactive, total unclear
Becker reiterated that there was no indication any of the city's 121 individual pumps were not turned on when they were supposed to. At that point, he acknowledged seven individual pumps were inactive because of routine maintenance.
Becker said that had a negligible impact on the overall system and some of those pumps were in areas that didn’t flood, such as the West Bank and New Orleans East.
One of the inactive pumps served the Lakeview area, one of the hardest hit.
Aug. 8: Special City Council hearing, S&WB head to retire
Shortly before the City Council meeting to address the flooding, Grant issued a statement announcing his retirement and for the first time citing misinformation from his agency and "power generation" issues.
In his statement, he revealed that 14 total pumps were inactive, the additional six being "constant duty" pumps, which function continuously and are intended for groundwater. Three of the additional inactive "constant duty" pumps served the Lakeview area, but these pumps serve little function during flooding events.
Officials also revealed that three inactive power turbines forced the agency to rely on Entergy power to run the pumps, which resulted in a diminished operating capacity for several areas.
“The way my parents raised me, once they caught me not telling the truth, they didn’t believe anything I said,” Gray said to Becker.
Overall, it took 14 hours to fully dry out the city.
Pumping stations serving the two New Orleans neighborhoods hit hardest by Saturday's flood w…
Shortly after the City Council hearing, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he would ask members of the S&WB this week to fire two other high-ranking officials, including Becker.
“The obfuscation we saw today, it's insulting to the public,” Landrieu said. “Being open, honest and truthful is critically important.”