"That should be criminal," Taffaro [St. Bernard parish president] continues.
What he's talking about was witnessed by a St. Bernard Parish resident who didn't want to be identified, but did have sharp criticism of the work done by a contractor hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"It's like putting a Band-Aid on the hole of a gas tank of an airplane," the resident said.
Instead of an airplane, it's a floodwall, and instead of a Band-Aid, the witness says two years ago, he saw the contractor filling the expansion joint or opening between the floodwalls with newspaper.
"The whole length of the wall was stuffed with newspaper."
And when he confronted the contractor, the contractor blamed Washington for the substandard work.
"He basically told me when Congress sent down the money, it would be repaired the proper way."
But during a recent trip to the area, two years later, it was apparent that didn't happen. Much of the newspaper had deteriorated or been eaten by bugs, but some still remained. In fact WWL cameras even captured the date May 21, 2006, on a page of the Parade magazine from the Times-Picayune.
Engineers tell Eyewitness News an expansion joint has three lines of defense. The first is an elastic strip that helps keep water out. In the middle is the most important part, a waterstop, which is in fact included in the St. Bernard floodwall. However what is missing is a rubber joint that goes in between and helps keep foreign objects out.
The witness who talked to Eyewitness News says the contractor used the newspaper in place of the rubber joint. Kulkarni [an engineer] says it's not a short term risk, but over time that missing rubber joint could weaken that waterstop.
"It could be very serious," Kulkarni said. "It doesn't take a lot of stress to cause the failure of these floodwalls. We don't know after two or three years how the main joint will perform. This is the first line of defense."
And what did ACE say?
But the Army Corps of Engineers says it is confident the floodwall will sufficiently defend residents of St. Bernard and the Ninth Ward.
"If you look at the repairs we made to the joints, there's not really a safety issue with the joints at all," said Kevin Wagner with the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps also says it's satisfied with the quality of work done by its contractor. When asked by WWL if there was any shoddy work involved, Wagner said, "I don't think so at all."
(For more and video of the...paper levees)