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Mr. Barbero said for the plug to have worked in New York, he would have had to have taken measurements and then built a custom-made balloon to those dimensions.
“To close a tunnel near the surface for surface runoff like what happened now is relatively easy,” he said. “If we had been contacted some time ago, we could have easily designed one for that situation. If you want to seal a tunnel, I have a team that is ready to do this. We have the expertise.”
A new test is planned for Nov. 8, to be attended by Homeland Security officials. Another success may spur the department to find a commercial producer that then could market the plugs to transit authorities. The air bags would be positioned at various tunnel locations and be activated by remote control.
Homeland Security three years ago also boasted about a second plug — a 105-foot-long tube that could be dropped from the air into a levee and then would flow to the breach, such as the ones that opened in the 2005 Hurricane Katrina and flooded New Orleans.
“It worked,” a 2009 departmental press release said of a test done by the Army Corps of Engineers‘ test center in Vicksburg, Miss.
“The incompressible nature of water and the unyielding fabric turn the tube into a rigid plug that conforms to the breach and seals it,” the release said.
But two years later, the department lost interest in the Portable Lightweight Ubiquitous Gasket and ended funding, the former program manager, Will Laska, told The Washington Times.
“Homeland Security Department S&T funded it up to a certain point, and after that point, they did not want to transition it to the next level, which was trying to integrate it into systems that are out there already,” he said.
“This is not a silver bullet. But it does work in different situations. We put together a [concept of operations] on this. We were all set to go forward and talk to people and try to sell it, but then we just got the funding pulled from us.”
Numerous press reports this week said a levee in Bergen County, N.J., broke, flooding three towns.
Mr. Stroupe said the plug was damaged in a recent demonstration and is just about ready to work again.
The Corps is developing two other plugs designed specifically for waterways in Florida.
“It is amazing technology, and we need to get it out there,” Mr. Stroupe said.
He said the Corps “might have” been able to ship the plug to New Jersey. “It’s more aimed at levees if you can catch them in that early part before they start unraveling and growing bigger,” he said.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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