Project: Baton Rouge Wastewater Pump Station SCADA System, September 7, 2005

By Control Engineering Staff September 7, 2005

September 7, 2005

Hurricane Katrina has passed—the worst storm ever to hit the Gulf South. New Orleans looked like it would be spared until several levees gave way. Now over 80% of the city is covered with up to 20 feet of water. A million people are displaced, which is expected to continue for a minimum of six months to a year.

A large start-up we were working on in the Mobile area was, surprisingly, not postponed due to the hurricane. This was completed in the three days immediately following the hurricane. Getting there from Baton Rouge was an obstacle course. Very little power in Mobile. No hotel rooms were available—we stayed in the client’s home. Only a few restaurants were open (people were never so thankful for a McDonald’s hamburger). Gas lines 50 cars long in front of gas stations that weren’t even open—it took most of the morning to get gas Wednesday. Although our start-up conversions were completed and tested, the client was not able to restart the process line due to low gas pressure in the area.

The exodus from the New Orleans area has increased our Baton Rouge population by an estimated 50% overnight. Many people have taken in friends and relatives. We have become FEMA headquarters for the rebuilding of the New Orleans area. Almost everyone has been affected in some way. Nothing is business as usual anymore.

We have made a business decision to give priority attention to repairs of water, wastewater, and other critical infrastructure when we are asked to become involved. We will delay current customer project completions when these emergency requests occur, which I believe they will understand under the circumstances.

We spoke briefly with the primary engineering firm about having a meeting with them and the City of Baton Rouge maintenance personnel in the next week, as the Phase 1 contract for the RTU and HMI hardware has expired without resolution. And the city purchasing agent has ruled it cannot be extended without a new request for proposals. We are estimating this process will further delay the project overall completion by 60 to 90 days.

I don’t know what project planner could have anticipated the obstacles and delays we have encountered this past week.