Officials with the Sewerage & Water Board say West Bank water and wastewater treatment plants in the Algiers section are operable, but leaky pipes limit areas of service. On the East Bank in Orleans Parish, the city’s largest wastewater treatment plant is under 6 ft of water. "We expect to have the water drawn down by the end of the week, and then we can start to dry out our motors and prepare to come back on line," says Gordon Austin, a S&WB manager.

In the Sewer. New Orleans' main wastewater treatment plant is under 6 ft of water. Return to service is several weeks away, officials say.

Houston-based Veolia N.A., operates the plant, which is designed to treat 122 million gallons per day of wastewater in dry weather. "We don’t know how long it will take to bring the plant back up once it is dried out," says Christie Kaluza, Veolia spokeswoman. "First we need a full assessment of the distribution system."

S&WB has hired MWH, Broomfield, Colo., to assess the system and define the scope of repairs. For now, the city is discharging waste directly into Lake Pontchartrain, with permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Veolia also operates smaller treatment plants in the New Orleans suburbs of Kenner and Harahan. Both went down briefly after the storm, but are back in service now. New Orleans-based electric utility Entergy is re-charging large sections of the grid, including the lift stations that serve the treatment plants. The utility checks each station’s electrical equipment before reconnecting.

Harahan has 12 lift stations at a single 1.5-mgd plant and Kenner 77 at two plants, says David Smith, Veolia regional vice president. "We have all the lift stations on line, using a combination of portable bypass pumps, gen-sets and power from the grid," he says. Smith hopes to have influent moving through half the East Bank plant’s process train about 60 days after it is dewatered, he says.

Water and sewer service in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes are several months away, say officials.

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    In Mississippi, volunteers from Florida provided quick repairs to bring water and wastewater treatment plants on line. FlaWARN [Florida Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network], formed last year as a utility cooperative, sent about 115 workers with generators and spare parts to Mississippi immediately after the storm.

    "We perform triage. We diagnose the problems and get the plants back on line as soon as possible with temporary repairs," says Jack Kelly, director of water and wastewater treatment for Jacksonville Electric Authority.

    FlaWARN volunteers, working in teams of about 10 each, began near Hattiesburg and worked their way south. Working with local plant personnel, the teams repaired more than 100 plants, Kelly says.

    Those along the coast bore the brunt of the storm. "We were knocked out completely," says Al Smith, chairman of the board of the Hancock Water and Sewer District. He says it will take "at least three months" to restore sewer service to Waveland, Miss.

    (Photo by Michael Goodman for ENR)

    ven as Hurricane Rita was effectively postponing New Orleans Mayor Roy Nagin’s call for residents to begin returning to the city, repair crews were working around the clock to restore water and sewer services. Some sections of the city have water, but in many places it is not potable. Far fewer neighborhoods have sewerage. Pre-Katrina smoke tests showed that the distribution system was full of holes. Now, the system is in a shambles with multiple new breaks in mains and lateral lines.