“That should be criminal,” Taffaro [St. Bernard parish president] continues.
What he’s talking about was witnessed by a St. Bernard Parish resident
who didn’t want to be identified, but did have sharp criticism of the
work done by a contractor hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“It’s like putting a Band-Aid on the hole of a gas tank of an airplane,” the resident said.
Instead of an airplane, it’s a floodwall, and instead of a Band-Aid,
the witness says two years ago, he saw the contractor filling the
expansion joint or opening between the floodwalls with newspaper.
“The whole length of the wall was stuffed with newspaper.”
And when he confronted the contractor, the contractor blamed Washington for the substandard work.
“He basically told me when Congress sent down the money, it would be repaired the proper way.”
But during a recent trip to the area, two years later, it was apparent
that didn’t happen. Much of the newspaper had deteriorated or been eaten by bugs, but some still remained. In fact WWL cameras even captured the date May 21, 2006, on a page of the Parade magazine from
Engineers tellEyewitness News
an expansion joint has three lines of defense. The first is an elastic
strip that helps keep water out. In the middle is the most important
part, a waterstop, which is in fact included in the St. Bernard
floodwall. However what is missing is a rubber joint that goes in
between and helps keep foreign objects out.
The witness who talked toEyewitness News
says the contractor used the newspaper in place of the rubber joint.
Kulkarni [an engineer] says it’s not a short term risk, but over time that missing
rubber joint could weaken that waterstop.
”It could be very serious,” Kulkarni said. “It doesn’t take a lot of
stress to cause the failure of these floodwalls. We don’t know after
two or three years how the main joint will perform. This is the first
line of defense.”
And what did ACE say?
But the Army
Corps of Engineers says it is confident the floodwall will sufficiently
defend residents of St. Bernard and the Ninth Ward.
“If you look at the repairs we made to the joints, there’s not really a
safety issue with the joints at all,” said Kevin Wagner with the Army
Corps of Engineers.
also says it’s satisfied with the quality of work done by its
contractor. When asked by WWL if there was any shoddy work involved,
Wagner said, ”I don’t think so at all.”
(For more and video of the…paper levees)