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Power outages at pumping stations could cause sewer backups in New Orleans

Hurricane Ida made landfall in southeast Louisiana just before noon on Sunday.

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board says power outages at sewage pumping stations on the east and West Bank could cause sewer backups in homes.

The S&WB is urging residents who still have power to minimize wastewater leaving their homes by not running dishwashers or washing machines.

"These stations will be out of service until the storm passes and it is safe for us to make assessments," the agency said.

As of 3:45 p.m., the S&WB confirmed that 24 of 84 sewer lift stations were without power.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said an Entergy power outage compromised the sewer lift system. City Councilwoman Helena Moreno said Entergy found a breaker that feeds the S&WB that went out, and crews are now working to fix it.

The city's infrastructure chief, Ramsey Green, said earlier Saturday that Entergy generators could be deployed to the pump stations to restore power. He asked residents to conserve water temporarily because of the sewer pump issue.

While the S&WB could not identify the specific lift stations that lost power, they tend to work in a chain, moving sewage from the west side of the city to the sewer treatment plant in the Lower 9th Ward, so if sewage backs up at one lift station, it could cause backups behind it too.

According to Entergy, all eight transmission lines that deliver power to the New Orleans area are out of service. When they went down, it caused a load imbalance that took power generation offline.

Entergy officials said that have provided back-up generation to the S&WB.

Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana as one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever strike US with 150 mph winds. Ida is arriving Sunday on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s ruinous strike on the Gulf Coast.  

The Sewerage and Waterboard New Orleans released a statement on the outage: 

As a city, we are currently experiencing the worst impacts from Hurricane Ida yet.  Although we have lost all Entergy power, our teams are working quickly and decisively to make up for this with our self-generated power sources, including Turbines 4, 5, and 6 and EMD, as well as backup generators located at our drainage pumping stations. 

The Entergy loss of power is a significant loss of power for our 60 hz pumps and the 25 hz pumps we power through the frequency changers, but we are using our self-generated sources of power to drain stormwater and pump drinking water into the city.

Lastly, this power loss also impacts our sewer pumping stations. Currently there is no backup power to operate any of those that were impacted. We are assessing how many of the 84 stations are impacted but the number may be very significant. We have worked to obtain backup power for some of these stations and we will mobilize those units when it is safe to traverse the city. In order to prevent sewage backups, we have asked residents to limit water usage at home, thus decreasing the amount of wastewater we must pump and treat.

This is a rapidly-developing and extremely fluid situation. We will keep you updated as circumstances develop

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