Building Safer Communities

April 2011: The residents of New Orleans can feel safer about the upcoming storm season as a major hurricane protection project in Algiers wraps up.

For the past six years, the USACE’s Hurricane Protection Office has worked to rebuild and shore up buildings ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The McDonnel Group and Southern Services & Equipment (SSE) recently completed one of those projects – the Storm Proofing of Drainage Pump Station No. 13, which sits on a bridge spanning the Norman Canal in Algiers.

The existing station houses 7 water pumps and 2 electrical generator sets to handle storm water flow through a densely populated neighborhood. Improvements were made to the building for the 2011 hurricane season and a new building was constructed with two more electrical generators set for use this year.

None of the building’s existing masonry and brick walls were structurally stable enough to withstand pressure from floodwaters, so unstable walls were reinforced, floodwalls were built around the water pumps installed below flood level, and the building’s roof was replaced. Windows, shutters, and doors were upgraded to current hurricane codes.

Throughout construction, the station had to remain fully operational. To accomplish this, a temporary backup system was devised in case a storm blew in and the pump station was needed. “The system couldn’t be down longer than 30 minutes. Our temporary system never had to be used, but it was available and ready,” said Todd Pierce, McDonnel Superintendent.

Replacing the existing metal roof was not a simple “demolish and replace” project. Sensitive, expensive equipment inside the building was not removed and the Corps was concerned about protecting it. The solution was to construct an elaborate temporary, waterproof roof under the existing structure. Then the old roof was demolished and the permanent roof was built. Lou Campero, McDonnel Project Manager, thinks the design may be a first for McDonnel, and reports the Corps is very happy with the results. There were no leaks throughout the process. All the electrical control and equipment starting panels inside the existing building were also relocated safely above flood elevations.

The main event for this project was the installation of 2 electrical generator sets in a new 40-foot wide by 130-foot-long by 60-foot-tall building. Campero says people are stunned when they learn the size of the new diesel engine-driven units. Each weighs approximately 100,000 pounds and can produce 3,580 kilowatts of electricity.

Architectural pre-cast concrete panels cover the walls and roof system. In addition to making the building hurricane-resistant, the material also mitigates the sounds of the running equipment for the nearby residential neighbors. The panel glazing and windows are missile impact rated and designed for 3-second, 156 mile-per-hour wind gusts. A platform for the generator sets was built 11-feet above ground to eliminate flooding concerns.

Two mammoth fuel tanks, directly tied to the generators, were installed on a timber pile and concrete foundation. The 30,000-gallon, double-wall, steel tanks sit approximately 30 feet from the building. Diesel fuel is fed to the generators through underground lines. A catwalk was built connecting the fuel tanks to the control room in the pump station. The site is manned around the clock. In the event of a flood, the operator can walk above flood elevation to get to the generator building.

A number of homes are within 200 feet of the new building. Campero said it was dicey for semis to negotiate the surface streets with 94-foot-long concrete piles loaded on the trailers. A plan to control sediment and erosion was put in place to eliminate any negative impact on the Algiers Canal. “Even though we were disturbing the Earth around the canal, we didn’t cause any negative environmental impact,” Campero said. “There was minimal risk of any kind of exposure or spills into the canal. If we discovered anything along the way, work would have been stopped and the problem solved before continuing.”

The Corps was extremely concerned about the safety of everyone working on the project. A detailed safety and hurricane preparedness plan was implemented and Pierce was in charge of making sure the personnel were trained and the plans were followed. “The Corps complimented us on how quickly we remedied anything that may not have been safe,” Campero said “There were no accidents and we did everything possible to complete the contract this way.”

McDonnel and SSE’s focus on safety led to the Corps’ awarding the team with the prestigious “Superior Safety Performance Award”.

For a current view from the webcam and to see time-lapsed images of the project’s construction, click here

Project's Detail