Tim Holan has mixed emotions after his trip to New Orleans to help oversee the repair of two levee breaks that flooded the city.
Holan, a project manager for MHF Logistical Solutions Inc., was in the city as almost 4,000 of his company's giant bags were filled with ground-up asphalt and gravel and used to plug the breaches.
``Obviously, it's something you wish had never happened,'' Holan said. ``That being said, it was an honor to be part of that, part of the solution.''
MHF makes a couple of different sizes of large woven polypropylene bags that are designed to carry about 24,000 pounds of waste material. They measure 8 feet in length by 6 or 7 feet in width and 4½ feet in height. The bags commonly are used to transport contaminated soil or low-level radioactive waste from cleanup sites either by rail or by truck.
A current customer using the bags at a project in Colorado thought of MHF when he saw smaller bags initially being used in New Orleans. That customer contacted emergency officials and recommended MHF.
Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters were used to carry and drop the bags into the 17th Street and London Avenue levee breaks. The Chinooks were able to carry about 15,000 pounds of material per load, and the Blackhawks were able to transport about 7,000 pounds during each trip.
A special metal frame is used to keep the bags open while excavators fill them before they are tied closed.
In New Orleans, a forklift was used to remove the bags and take them to a staging area, where they were connected to the helicopters with metal wires.
MHF sent every bag it had on hand at its Sweetwater, Tenn., manufacturing plant, and the company even had to borrow bags it had already sent to four other projects around the country.
In total, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used about 3,800 of the bags to staunch the flow of water.
While Holan called the scene in New Orleans ``horrific,'' he also said, ``At the same moment you couldn't help but feel a sense of purpose. So many people pulling together.''
MHF, which is based in Cranberry Township, Pa., near Pittsburgh, has increased production at its Tennessee plant to help restock the supply of bags, Holan said.