Schools in southern end of Plaquemines Parish dealing with water issues
The issues have been exacerbated by a saltwater wedge creeping up the Mississippi River.
PORT SULPHUR (WVUE) - Months after Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency in Plaquemines Parish because of saltwater intrusion from the Gulf of Mexico, school faculty and students in southern Plaquemines said they’re still dealing with ongoing water issues.
Over the summer, salt water began to intrude into the Mississippi River in a phenomenon called a “saltwater wedge.” As Fox 8 reported, this is the second consecutive year parish officials have had to deal with an issue they said typically is a once-in-a-decade problem.
“The river is basically the Gulf of Mexico down in the Boothville/Venice area,” said Parish President Keith Hinkley. “Day to day, it’s a quality-of-life issue.”
Besides impacting homes and businesses, the water issues have put a strain on the educational system, said Interim Superintendent Dr. Shelley Ritz.
“It’s been tough. School is all about routine,” Ritz said. “It’s tough for the parents of the students, it’s tough for the administration and faculty.”
Ritz said South Plaquemines High School near Empire has been particularly impacted, with school having to dismiss early on several occasions just since the start of the academic year.
“There has been water, but unfortunately because of the elevation of the buildings being 20 feet for first floor and the second floor being higher, the pressure of the water is causing significant issues at South Plaquemines High in particular,” Ritz said.
The water system in the parish is being hit with a double whammy, Hinkley said, because of the extremely dry and hot conditions that have been present recently.
“For the most part we’re way behind in rainfall, so the water table drops,” he said. “Your lines are beneath the dirt. When the water table drops, the lines are just hovering in mid-air. So pressure, the weight of the line, they’ll collapse.”
Another issue lies in the now-closed parish water facility just outside Port Sulphur, which Hinkley said has been closed since Ida submerged it under eight feet of water two years ago.
He said the parish has been working to bring that facility back online so water can be sent down, and that their testing has shown water produced at the facility is safe for consumption.
“We’re making water at the West Pointe A La Hache facility/Port Sulphur facility,” Hinkley said. “We passed the tests. The water tests have all come back from our facility that we get the water tested up in Amite. But LDH [is] treating it like a new facility, so we’re having to go through extensive testing before we can push the water from that facility.”
Hinkley said it could be seven to 10 days before the parish receives the go-ahead from the state to begin pushing water out from the facility.
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