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ITT Industries pumps on the scene in New Orleans

By JERRY GLEESON
THE JOURNAL NEWS
September 1, 2005)


ITT Industries Inc. of Harrison is the largest maker of pumps in the world. Its products are about to be put to the test in New Orleans.

Seventy of the company's large-scale pumps are part of the city's floodwater protection system, one of the biggest in the world. Since it started supplying them in 1980, ITT is among the largest providers of pumps for the city and surrounding parishes.

The devices are enormous. Some are 11 feet in width and require eight tractor-trailers for delivery. The largest pumps sell for more than $1 million and can move a half-million gallons of water per minute.

Right now, none of them is operating. All the pump stations in New Orleans are shut down as the city grapples with the larger problem of repairing the breaks in levees that allowed water to pour in from neighboring Lake Pontchartrain.

Yesterday afternoon, officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told reporters it appeared the waters from the lake had reached equilibrium with those in the streets. They hoped to start repairs on a broken 300-foot stretch of the 17th Street Canal near the lake by the evening.

A number of Chinook helicopters, used by the U.S. Army to transport heavy equipment in war zones, would be employed to place 15,000-pound sandbags in the gaps in the levee. Officials could not say how long the levee repairs would take, but pointed out that New Orleans could not be effectively pumped dry without barriers that would keep the water from flowing back in.

The pump stations in the city had not been assessed yesterday for possible damage, corps officials said. Robert Dietlmeier, contract manager for the company's A-C Custom Pump division, said he had spoken with the director of pump stations Sunday and was told that the ITT pumps all were operable at that time.

Some pumps run on electricity, and others on diesel fuel. Dietlmeier said the diesel pumps could run independent of whether electric service was available.

In addition to its 70 pumps in the New Orleans region, ITT also has two other pumps in storage in the area that were purchased for later installation. Building a pump station is not an overnight operation, however. Dietlmeier said the water table is shallow in the city, and pylons have to be driven 100 feet into the ground to support the sheer tonnage of the machines.

Glover said ITT is prepared to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other organizations, but those groups would have to direct the flood recovery work.

Walter Baumy, chief of the engineering division at the Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District, said he didn't foresee any problem with the pumping operations once the levees were repaired.

He agreed it could take weeks before pumping operations could dry the city out. The corps also is planning to repair serious breaches in levees at the Industrial Canal and the London Avenue Canal in the city.