Nate aims at New Orleans: Will pumps to drain the city work?

Published: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 4:18 AM
Updated: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 4:16 AM

When Tropical Storm Nate formed and forecasts put New Orleans in its projected path for this weekend, one big question loomed for residents and business owners: Will the pumps work?

"That's now a thought in everybody who lives in New Orleans," said Devin Shearman, a manager at Katie's restaurant and lounge, which flooded during an unexpected rainstorm Aug. 5. It was one of two flash floods this past summer that led to revelations about personnel and equipment problems at the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, the agency that runs the pumping system that drains the city.

Some pumps weren't working. Some turbines that provide power to the pumps were down. There weren't enough people on hand to man the system.

"Since early August, we have made substantial progress," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said of work to upgrade the city drainage system. But he warned at a Thursday news conference that extremely heavy rain and storm surge from Nate still could pose flood dangers.

Nate formed in the western Caribbean Sea and moved into Central America on Thursday. Forecasters said it would likely emerge in the Gulf of Mexico and strengthen, possibly reaching hurricane strength before a Sunday morning landfall somewhere along the Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama coast. Officials in the resort town of Grand Isle on a vulnerable barrier island south of New Orleans called a voluntary evacuation Thursday. To the east, in coastal St. Bernard Parish, authorities ordered an evacuation of areas not protected by levees.

In the center of Nate's possible destinations was New Orleans, where the summer floods shook public confidence in the Sewerage and Water Board.

It's a state-created agency governed by a board that includes the mayor and appointees of the mayor and the City Council.

After the Aug. 5 revelations, the agency's executive director, Cedric Grant, resigned. Landrieu announced the appointment of a new six-member emergency team to run the agency, make immediate upgrades and recommend long-term changes.

The team is headed by veteran emergency expert Paul Rainwater.

"It's an antiquated system," Rainwater said Thursday, as he discussed his work and the decisions ahead on what will be needed in terms of equipment and personnel.

As of Thursday, city officials said, 108 of 120 pumps and 26 power generators were in place to back up working turbines. Also, the city said efforts to clean thousands of street catch basins had been stepped up, with vacuum trucks dispatched to various areas to suck out thick mud and debris.

Long-term, a major question facing the city is whether to stick with nearly century-old pumps, which cost a lot of money and manpower to maintain but last longer than newer pumps that are reported to have shorter lifespans.

Many are also questioning where the S&WB leadership needs to rest. One option is reducing its autonomy — making it a department directly under the mayor with scrutiny from the council. It's a suggestion New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux has made to the mayor and City Council in letters for years.

Meanwhile, city officials must deal with the public's shaken faith in the drainage system.

The Sewerage and Water Board's emergency management team also included a new public relations director — a result of early, erroneous initial statements that the pumps were all working during the Aug. 5 floods.

"There was a lot of misinformation, or lies, frankly, about where we stood," City Council President Jason Williams said in a recent interview. "Moving forward, we've got to make sure that the Sewerage & Water Board is transparent to the public and to all branches of government, because clearly that wasn't happening, and that there's veracity, just being really honest."

Williams said in a recent interview that council members recently learned pumping capacity wasn't tested ahead of the hurricane season that began June 1.

"It's not a time to figure out things when you're under water and when you're in a kayak," he said.

"I'm glad they're addressing it, finally, but I don't know if you can get my approval for addressing it now, after something's happened," said Shearman, who says patrons were stranded in the restaurant for hours in August when water in the streets was thigh-high. "Trust can be brought back. It's not going to come overnight though. It's going to take a lot of time."

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‘I’ll bite your nose off and spit it in your face,’ man tells cop during arrest

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 10:12 PM

Martin Flemings

A 56-year-old man pinched a Dayton officer and threatened to bite him tonight during his arrest, according to a Dayton police report.

Officers on patrol reported finding Martin Eugene Flemings around 7:20 p.m. inside a garage that was boarded up by the city at 22 W. Hudson Ave.

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According to the report, Flemings, who was possibly intoxicated, became belligerent after he found out his lighter shaped like a handgun would be placed in the property room. He began yelling and told an officer: “I’ll bite your nose off and spit it in your face,” the report stated.

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Flemings then reached back and pinched the officer in the right thigh, according to the report.

Flemings was booked into the Montgomery County Jail on suspicion of menacing, resisting arrest and illegal entry into a nuisance premises. He also had a warrant for failing to appear on a drug possession charge, records show.

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New Chipotle CEO graduated from a Dayton-area college

Published: Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 12:15 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 10:11 PM

Chipotle Mexican Grill in Monroe, Ohio, GREG LYNCH / STAFF Customers visit the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Monroe during the lunch time rush, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Unconfirmed cases of E. Coli have been reported at Chipolte locations in Ohio and other states. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
Chipotle Mexican Grill in Monroe, Ohio, GREG LYNCH / STAFF Customers visit the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Monroe during the lunch time rush, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Unconfirmed cases of E. Coli have been reported at Chipolte locations in Ohio and other states. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Chipotle Mexican Grill has hired a new chief executive officer and he has roots in southwest Ohio.

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Chipotle has named Taco Bell’s Brian Niccol as its next leader, replacing Steve Ells, who built the fast-casual food chain.

Brian Niccol, new Chipotle CEO.(Staff Writer)

Niccol is a 1996 graduate of Miami University, just an hour from Dayton.

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Niccol, 43, graduated from Miami’s college of engineering and computing, serves on the advisory council of Miami’s Farmer School of Business and is a member of the college’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity, according to the university. He started his career at Procter and Gamble in marketing.

Niccol replaced Ells on March 5 after Ells announced in November that he planned to step down.

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Niccol has been in charge of Taco Bell since 2015, according to reports. He is known as the person who brought the Doritos Locos Tacos and mobile ordering to Taco Bell.

Chipotle’s brand has suffered over the last few years as the company tries to recover from E.coli, norovirus and Salmonella outbreaks that got customers sick and shrunk burrito sales.

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Great Pacific Garbage Patch 16 times larger than estimates: 87,000 tons of plastic and growing

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 9:37 PM

An example of the plastic trash found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the ocean between California and Hawaii.
The Ocean Cleanup Foundation
An example of the plastic trash found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the ocean between California and Hawaii.(The Ocean Cleanup Foundation)

The giant mass of floating plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, now measures almost 620,000 square miles and is as much as 16 times larger than previous estimates, according to a new study.

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The huge mass of soupy trash between California and Hawaii in what’s known as the Pacific gyre contains 87,000 tons of plastic, researchers reported in the study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, and scientists said with the massive global plastic pollution continuing, it’s still growing.

Data between 1970 and 2015 shows the plastic levels in the garbage patch are increasing at a faster rate than in surrounding waters.

Microplastics and larger chunks of plastic, along with tons of abandoned or lost fishing nets, litter the ocean in an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.(The Ocean Cleanup Foundation)

The biggest chunk of garbage in the patch, 46 percent of it, is fishing nets, according to the research. Other types of commercial fishing gear, including eel traps, ropes and oyster spacers account for a majority of the rest of the trash. 

Oceanographer and lead researcher with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation Laurent Lebreton told National Geographic scientists wanted to study the bigger pieces of trash in the patch.

“I knew there would be a lot of fishing gear, but 46 percent was unexpectedly high,” Lebreton said. “Initially, we thought fishing gear would be more in the 20 percent range. That is the accepted number [for marine debris] globally - 20 percent from fishing sources and 80 percent from land.”

A map shows the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) floating in the ocean and the concentration levels of trash in the gyre.(The Ocean Cleanup Foundation)

The fishing nets that litter the world’s oceans entangle whales, turtles and seals, and the plastic in the seas kills or injures 100,000 marine animals every year, National Geographic reported.

Researchers said there are still many unknowns about the garbage patch, including the level of plastic pollution in deeper waters and on the sea floor, and that more study is needed,

The findings are part of a three-year mapping effort involving Ocean Cleanup, an international team of scientists, six universities and an aerial sensor company. 


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Dayton Arby’s sold: What does this mean for your beloved curly fries?

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 12:41 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 9:40 PM

Local Arby’s stores have new ownership, will be remodeled starting this summer

All 29 Arby’s locations in the Dayton area have been sold, and the nearly 1,000 workers at those restaurants have a new corporate employer.

AES Restaurant Group LLC, an Arby’s franchisee based in Carmel, Indiana announced Feb. 14 that it has acquired 29 Miami Valley restaurants from GZK, Inc., headquartered in West Carrollton. GZK had operated Arby’s restaurants in the Dayton area for more than five decades. With the purchase, AES now operates 46 Arby’s restaurants across Indiana, Ohio and Georgia.

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A GZK spokeswoman referred questions to AES Restaurant Group President and CEO John Wade, who told this news outlet that the deal has been a long time in the making, and makes sense from a geographic standpoint — the Dayton market is only two hours away from AES Restaurant Group’s headquarters.

“We’ve always thought that the Dayton market was a prime Arby’s market, and we have pursued this for years,” Wade said. Working with GZK owner Neil Kaufman, Wade said, “We were finally able to put together a deal that was advantageous for all of us.”

Details of the transaction were not disclosed. All GZK employees have been hired by AES, including office support staff and members of the maintenance department, Wade said in a release.

“The same people who have been taking care of Dayton-area Arby’s customers for years will continue to do so,” Wade said. “We’ll be bringing some freshness to the restaurants, and will sharpen things up.”

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After merging the two companies and its operations, AES will launch a remodeling project this summer for Dayton-area restaurants. The renovated restaurants will feature design elements such as wood tones, white brick, subway tiles, stainless steel finishes, and upgraded lighting and landscaping that will deliver an upgraded guest experience, AES officials said in a release.

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GZK also had operated a dozen Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken locations until 2014, when it sold the franchise restaurants to Far Hills Development LLC.

Arby’s, founded in 1964, is the second-largest sandwich restaurant brand in the world with more than 3,400 restaurants in seven countries.

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