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National Briefing / WASHINGTON, D.C.

Hurricane pump claims to be probed

August 24, 2008|From Times Wire Reports

The Department of Defense will hire an independent engineering company to review allegations that pumps installed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina weren't adequately tested and could fail during a storm.

Acting Inspector General Gordon Heddell said he has ordered his staff to begin work immediately on a contract to look at tests done before the Army Corps of Engineers installed the pumps, and at the pumps themselves. It was not clear how long that would take.

"Based upon my review, and the need for public confidence in New Orleans' flood protection system, I have concluded that an outside opinion is warranted," Heddell wrote in a letter to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

The special counsel office handles whistle-blower complaints, including those by Corps engineer Maria Garzino, who warned in early 2006 that the pumps, put in place after the infamous Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane, wouldn't work properly.

Heddell's predecessor, Claude Kicklighter, found no criminal act or danger in the Corps' decision to install 34 pumps at canals before the 2006 hurricane season despite Garzino's objections. She had said they were the wrong size and might self-destruct when started.

Attorney William Bucknam said Moving Water Industries Corp. of Deerfield Beach, Fla., which provided the pumps under a $33-million contract, was confident it would be cleared of any wrongdoing.

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