TODAY   |  November 01, 2012

‘Unwatering’ team is drying NYC subway tunnels

Most of Sandy’s flood waters on New York City’s streets have receded, but much of the water beneath the streets remains trapped. TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie met with Roger Less of the Army Corps of Engineers to talk about the task of drying out the underground.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> of course. most of sandy's flood waters have flooded the streets, but it's the water beneath that's presented the biggest challenge. on wednesday, i met the team leader of the engineers tasked with getting all that water out. sandy's winds and rains may be long gone, but one thing is here to stay. all that water.

>> the army corps of engineers is sending us their best national team . they call it the national unwatering team. i didn't know there was such a name for a team.

>> neither did we, but i got the chance to meet the head of the so-called unwatering team of the army corps of engineers .

>> well, first of all, some people can't believe that you are known as the unwatering team. is that the term you would use?

>> it was a term handed to us, savannah, in 2005 the district i worked for was asked to go into new orleans and unwater the city of new orleans after hurricane katrina .

>> many others have been dispatched from illinois to share what they learned from katrina several years ago.

>> reporter: how much water do we need to pump out?

>> our estimates at this point in time are 300 to 400 million gallons of water. and it's growing.

>> reporter: and even though there's not as much overall as there was in new orleans, he says the job in new york is much more difficult.

>> it's not the amount of water that's the problem, it's where it is.

>> it's where it is, yeah.

>> and where it is is underground in miles and miles of subway and road tunnels.

>> some of those tunnels are up to 2 miles long. and the only points into them is at each end. and that requires us to have some pumping capabilities that perhaps reach 1/2 mile to a mile long.

>> another problem, the age of the tunnels. new york's subway system is over 100 years old.

>> some places we could probably pump out quicker, but we don't want to collapse the tunnel.

>> the next challenge, where to pump all that water.

>> largely mostly sea water . right now we're working on, it'll get pumped right back out to where it came from. it'll go back to the rivers and harbors. if we run into any bad contamination as a part of that, we'll deal with it as it comes up.

>> and one other project particularly meaningful to new yorkers, they are working to unwater the world trade center site .

>> it must make you feel good to know that you can do something to help.

>> it doesn't make us feel good to come to these, savannah, because we don't look forward to disasters, we don't want them to happen, but if they do happen, we want to be here to help.

>> once up and running, it'll be a 24-hour a day