Thursday, August 23, 2007

Corps Schenanigans

Corps employee pleads guilty to bribery in New Orleans-area levee contract. Times-Pic missed this one.

Matt McBride hasn't completely given up on blogging. He's made some posts on a diary over at Kos. 17th Street Canal Silting Up?!?! This is a HUGE deal because it limits the capacity of the canal. Peak capacity (which, luckily, is rarely needed) is 10,500 cfs. This is already reduced because of horizontal and vertical restrictions near the mouth of the canal. Basically, you can't put as much water through a 6" pipe as you can through an 8" pipe. If it's silting up, that makes the situation even worse. Also, dredging the canal is a scary proposition, given the shaky nature of the foundations of the floodwalls.

A very disturbing inspection report on the 17th Street Canal. It's amazing how obvious the flaws in the canal are.

Oh yeah, and what's our intrepid paper up to? This insulting article. Excuse me while I make my own water show by pissing all over this article. This guy was taken on a dog and pony show and fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Unfortunately, there are very few writers out there with a technical background, so they have to trust what they are told. I had a friend at my refugee school (Ole Miss) who covered Three Mile Island for the Boston Globe and he confessed he was clueless about the inner working of the reactor and had no idea how to judge the danger. I hate to be mean about a guy I've never read, but the Times-Pic guy sounds like he wouldn't know an irrigation pump (MWI's) from a penis pump.

I've been slowly digging into some of this stuff for a while. I got the capacity curves from MWI (they were very nice, as long as you treated them with respect and knew what to ask for). I asked around for past project where they've been used. They actually have a good rep, but they are irrigation pumps, not flood control pumps (less robust). Also, they're designed for static head situations and have serious cavitation problems in drawdown scenarios due to lack of NPSHr (translation- they'll shake themselves to pieces).

I don't know anything about the propriety with which the pump contract was issued. I don't want to comment, but I will at least throw out the suggestion that it might have been a case of looking worse than it really was. But, I don't want to touch that issue right now.

What I want to do is call in into question the engineering judgment of the Corps. I know for a fact that there were several other options that were presented to them that they rejected. I can't go into too much detail without getting myself into hot water, but they had other options on the table. Each one had pluses and minuses. With 20/20 hindsight, I think they made the wrong call.

I'm trying to be very careful with my criticisms because I don't have a lot of experience. I don't have a PE. I don't know a lot about a lot of things in the engineering field, but I know a few things very well and I'm nervous...

I'm going to stop now before I get beyond my expertise/get myself in trouble.


Matt said...

You don't have to have a PE to recognize lipstick on a pig.

The deal was dirty from the get-go. There's so much more filth that hasn't come out, it would make your eyes pop out of your head.

Matt said...

One other thing...

Think about this: MWI couldn't fully test the 60" pumps in their own testing facility because (among other reasons, like they were breaking down three ties a day), they didn't have any real way to accurately measure flow and head.

Even in November, 2006, when the Corps took a pump and drive back to MWI, serious modifications had to be made to a jury-rigged setup, which itself was still not in compliance with Hydraulic Institute standards. The Corps derived their own pump curves from that setup - they did not trust the MWI printed ones.

Knowing that, how in the world did MWI derive pump curves in the first place?

You see what I'm getting at? The MWI catalog data is not worth the paper on which it is printed. It is marketing, nothing more.

Clay said...

It was odd that their pump curves never included NPSHr...

Clay said...

Hey, WWL wasn't caught snoozing on the guilty plea:

Think this will happen to any current Corps employees related to the current work?

Matt said...

Yes. There is more than enough to get them.