Pentair’s Pumps Protect from Isaac; Local Cos. Monitor Storm

Pentair’s Pumps Protect from Isaac; Local Cos. Monitor Storm

Eleven massive propeller pumps designed by Pentair are diverting water away from levees in New Orleans. Twin Cities companies, meanwhile, are watching to see what effect the storm has and what they can do to help.

On Tuesday, one day prior to the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac hit Louisiana’s coast.

But custom-built water pumps created by Golden Valley-based Pentair, Inc., are moving massive amounts of water—and helping ensure that the tragic flood of 2005 doesn’t repeat itself in New Orleans.

Following Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers designed a series of canals and needed pumps to divert water away from levees and city streets so that it could be drained into the Gulf of Mexico.

Pentair was tapped for the $65 million project, and the company designed and manufactured 11 massive pumps, each of which weighs 140,000 pounds and contains 12-foot propellers capable of moving 750,000 gallons of water per minute.

When all 11 pumps are running, as they have been since Isaac hit the coast, the system moves “the equivalent to the amount of water going over Niagara Falls on the U.S. side,” according to Gary Witt, president of Pentair’s flow technologies division, which oversaw the production of the pumps.

The pumps took two years to design, build, and install, and they were completed last June. Witt said that Isaac has given the pumps their “first real test.”

“Clearly, Katrina was something that the [Army Corps of Engineers] and Pentair wanted to never have happen again, and as Isaac came forward, we were comfortable that it wouldn’t happen again,” Witt said. “We are very pleased and very excited that the system works as it is supposed to. It’s a very difficult thing, because we couldn’t exactly test the pumps in real-life conditions.”

To view a video about the planning and design of the pumps, click here.

Isaac, a Category 1 storm that had maximum sustained winds near 80 miles per hour Tuesday evening, has been less severe than Katrina, a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 125 miles per hour, according to a report by the Associated Press. (Read more about the differences between the two storms here.) Wednesday afternoon, Isaac was downgraded to a “tropical storm,” although it continued to send down dangerous waves of rain on much of coastal Louisiana, according to news reports.

Meanwhile, local companies are keeping a close eye on the storm.

Minneapolis-based Target Corporation had closed 10 of its stores in the affected areas as of Wednesday afternoon, spokeswoman Amy Reilly told Twin Cities Business.

“We’re really in a holding pattern here just like everyone else,” she said, adding that the company is awaiting an opportunity to return to the stores and assess any damage. Target, which donated $1.5 million to the Red Cross for immediate and ongoing relief following Katrina, held initial discussions with the Red Cross regarding opportunities to aid following Isaac, but it is waiting to hear what assistance is required.

Minnetonka-based UntitedHealth Group, Inc., recently said that it will help UnitedHealthcare plan participants obtain in-network benefits if a network care provider is not available, support the Red Cross, and open a free emotional-support line for affected individuals.

Eden Prairie-based Supervalu, Inc., which operates Save-A-Lot stores in the Gulf region, said it will work with the Red Cross and area food banks to identify immediate and long-term needs in the community. During past emergencies, the company has provided water and donated perishable items from stores that might have otherwise gone to waste.

A Best Buy spokesperson said that the company is currently “focused on our employees, stores, and customers,” and it is “assessing the situation and will provide resources when we have more information about the needs.”

St. Paul-based Ecolab, Inc., worked with charitable organizations to distribute the company’s sanitization products in the aftermath of Katrina. Spokesman Roman Blahoski said Wednesday that the company doesn’t currently have a plan to aid those affected by Isaac, but Ecolab is “monitoring the situation.”

Representatives from Minneapolis-based Thrivent Financial and Maplewood-based 3M Company—two more of the many Minnesota companies that provided assistance following Katrina—also said they are closely watching the storm and the severity of damage it causes before determining how to progress.