Water Industry News

What lies beneath: Rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina 

Gulf Water clean-up and infrastructure replacement

By Ann-Marie Fleming, www.Water-Stocks.com
September 2005 

As the clean up and recovery of the Louisiana area continues, focus surrounds the region’s water systems that had been shut down, damaged and contaminated as a result of Hurricane Katrina. As the toxic water is being pumped out of New Orleans, the industry and the nation faces many issues as it moves forward. While much remains uncertain in terms of the full impacts that Katrina has had on the water industry, concerns regarding environmental contamination, rebuilding of the regions’ infrastructure and future measures towards prevention have many insiders evaluating the direction of the water sector. 

Preliminary efforts at assessing the impact of this disaster point towards the area of water infrastructure, according to Neil Berlant, First Vice President and Managing Director - Water Group, The Seidler Companies. “We are under- invested in infrastructure and rebuilding deteriorating infrastructure and this catastrophe heightened that awareness,” stated Berlant. 

As described by Bjorn von Euler, ITT Industries, the first wave of industry response involves dewatering efforts, which are currently taking place, with the second wave being realized in the upcoming need for re-construction. According to Mr. von Euler, this phase will involve, “Getting power and a safe water supply running; cleaning the area and plants from contamination of salt water and chemicals; the assessment of damage and new plans for the city. New infrastructure will be needed; new construction of buildings, homes, roads and so on. This will take many years.” 

An area of infrastructure that has yet to be fully evaluated is the potential damage undertaken by the area’s roadway systems that have in large part been submersed under water for an extended length of time. As William Brennan, Managing Director & Senior Portfolio Manager at Boenning & Scattergood explains. “Road buckling caused by water submersion for over a month has not truly been addressed as one of the consequences of Katrina. This is a perfect opportunity for local, state and federal governments to step in and take a close look. Instead of digging up and laying a new road infrastructure, this would be a perfect opportunity for them to take a long inspection period in order to determine if we are going to rebuild and how we are going to rebuild. This is the perfect time during which the water issues in these specific areas should be addressed.” 

As the repair efforts take place and opportunities to learn from the events present themselves, the need for improved planning has become a priority moving forward. William Prince, CEO of Integrated Environmental Technologies, Inc. describes, “The environmental problems that we face during disasters point out the need for better planning. We cannot avoid these catastrophes, we can only deal with them, so planning from an environmentally responsible perspective, taking into consideration the long term effects versus short term solutions, is vital for recovery success and the avoidance of compounding damage. This responsible attitude towards planning includes a focus on the quality of water, not just the quantity and availability.” 

Industry Relief Efforts:

As the damage and destruction left in Katrina’s wake is being assessed, the costs associated with relief, and repair efforts continue to grow. Many industry participants, however, are answering the region’s call for help with financial assistance as well as through the provision of key water equipment.

In response to the relief and recovery efforts, Pentair Inc., is making pump and filtration equipment available to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state organizations. In a recent release Randall J. Hogan, Chairman and CEO of Pentair Inc. stated, “Pentair is taking quick action to make pump and filtration equipment and the necessary technical expertise available to agencies supporting disaster relief efforts.” 

Hughes Supply, Inc. has contributed $50,000, which was split evenly between the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, with an additional $70,000 worth of emergency supplies pledged. Hughes’ executives have also contributed $21,500 to the Hughes Supply Family Fund, which is designed to provide assistance for employees in urgent need. The funds will match employee contributions to the Fund, according to a Company release. 

To date, ITT Industries Inc. has donated $250,000 to the Red Cross towards Katrina relief efforts. “We are currently working with the contractors and authorities in the disaster area to help with the initial dewatering efforts. We have people and products on the ground and have shipped in 9 huge 200 Hp submersible pumps. Each of these has the capacity for moving over 20.000 Gallons of water per minute. The combine effect per hour is approximately 11 Million gallons,” explains Mr. von Euler. 

The Road Ahead: 

Moving forward from Katrina, one area that is anticipated to gain considerable attention entails water quality. “With the LT2 laws that are coming at the end of this year, you are going to see people start to take a look at this more closely as the UV market has the potential to grow between 10-15%. If they are going to have to adopt this technology by 2010, then there is no better time than to do it right now,” explains Brennan. 

While many questions remain unanswered, Hurricane Katrina has raised the awareness of how precious water is, how cheap it is and how much we depend on it, explains Mr. Berlant. “We have all the solutions, we have ample both capacity to provide the solutions and we have the technologies to purify all the water to use and reuse it. It is just about answering the more crucial question - who pays?” 

The full extent of the damage and the road to recovery is still unclear, however many within the industry continue to look forward. As stated by von Euler, “No doubt New Orleans will be back - but it will probably be a very different Big Easy.” 

Ann-Marie Fleming 

Ann-Marie Fleming completed her MBA in the United States, where she attended Webster University. She also holds an Honors B.A from the University of Toronto. She has over fifteen years of experience within the financial industry to include retail banking and brokerage, investment banking, and mortgage brokerage within the United States and Canada, with a firm background in corporate research. 

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