Jefferson Parish supplying half a million gallons of water daily to Plaquemines, ready to give more
BELLE CHASSE (WVUE) - As the public awaits more information about a saltwater wedge in the Mississippi River threatening the drinking water supply in the region, Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng said the parish is already helping its partners in Plaquemines Parish.
Sheng said Jefferson Parish is already tied into the Plaquemines Parish water system and that around half a million gallons of water are being supplied to Plaquemines per day.
“Half million gallons a day is what they can take now,” Sheng said. “They’re trying to enlarge that. Whether it’s enlarging a pipe, I’m not sure on the public works side of things. But our teams are working with their teams.”
Sheng said Jefferson could supply somewhere around seven million gallons daily to Plaquemines, but that the infrastructure isn’t in place on the receiving end to make that happen.
“By the time it gets up to the Greater New Orleans area, we’re going to need a lot more assistance from the state and even federal partners to help us with this,” she said.
“If it does get to us, we’re going to have to be pushing out water at distribution sites, but we’re really not there yet. We’ll be prepared when it comes up to us,” Sheng continued. “We don’t expect it to come, if it gets to Jefferson Parish, for several weeks.”
But many residents in South Plaquemines are frustrated, saying the saltwater issues they’ve been dealing with for months are now coming to the forefront because the drinking water supply in the Greater New Orleans area is now threatened.
“Down here on this end, it’s horrible. The farther you go down, the worse it is,” said Navy veteran Vanessa Ragas, who’s lived in Empire near Buras for about 15 years. “You can’t say it’s not the water. It’s the water. Because it’s harsh.”
Ragas called out what she said has been a lack of communication and action from the parish government, which issued a water advisory for the entirety of South Plaquemines parish on Thursday.
“We have a right to be angry. You cannot say that you’re okay with the situation down here. You can’t drink the water. If you drink the water, you’ll get sick,” Ragas said. “If you’re washing the clothes, you can’t do the dishes. If you’re doing the dishes, you can’t take a bath. And if you’re taking a bath, you can’t flush the toilet. You can’t get that out of your head,” Ragas said.
“This is what we’re living with down here.”
Governor John Bel Edwards plans to meet with parish presidents from across the metro area before holding a press conference Friday afternoon at 3 p.m.
Plaquemines Parish released the following information on Thursday:
Drinking Water Advisories: Advisories are in effect for the Empire to Venice area on the westbank and Phoenix to Bohemia area on the eastbank. The Plaquemines Parish water systems are experiencing higher levels of sodium and chloride from a saltwater wedge that is moving up the Mississippi River.
Bottled water: PPG and the State is still distributing water at the Buras and Boothville Venice Fire Stations. We are working on setting up a distribution site in the Phoenix to Bohemia area on the eastbank. If there is a need for additional water distribution sites, we will open them as necessary.
Water booster pump: PPG and Inframark installed a booster pump in Alliance to aid in pushing water from Belle Chasse to Venice. PPG conducted emergency repairs to the Port Sulphur Water Treatment Plant that was damaged during Hurricane Ida. These repairs were completed several weeks ago. PPG is awaiting final approval from the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) to operate that facility. LDH advised that earliest that facility can be approved to operate would be Friday, September 22nd. Once it is approved, Inframark would be able to blend up to 2 million gallons of water from that facility with the Belle Chasse Water Plant to push further south.
Boothville Water Treatment Plant: This facility produces 1 million gallons of water per day. PPG is in the process of procuring a Reverse Osmosis (RO) unit to operate at that facility. LDH must approve before installation then approve water quality once operational. PPG is also working to dredge the area near the intake since the river is extremely low there the intake is struggling to obtain river water.
Pointe a la Hache Water Treatment Plant: This facility produces 1 million gallons of water per day. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is in the process of procuring a RO unit to operate at the facility. PPG also is working on installing a reservoir barge at the facility. The USACE will then barge water to this facility once installation is complete and approved by LDH. As stated, this facility can produce up to 2 million gallons of water per day. PPG will be procuring 2 RO units for that facility and installing a reservoir barge. USACE will then barge water to this facility once installation is complete with the reservoir barge and approval from LDH.
Belle Chasse Water Treatment Plant: This facility produces 6.5 million gallons of water per day. PPG is working on “tie-ins” with our partners in Jefferson and Orleans Parish to provide some water to the facility. PPG is searching for 3 RO units to operate at this facility. PPG will be installing a reservoir barge at the facility. Once the installation is complete with the reservoir barge and approval by LDH the USACE will be able to barge water to this facility. LDH must approve operations of RO units and barging of water.
Dalcour Water Treatment Plant: This facility produces 1 million gallons of water per day. PPG is working on installing a reservoir barge at this facility. Once complete, USACE will be able to barge water to this facility. USACE is also searching for a RO unit for this facility. PPG is exploring the option of a “tie-in” to St. Bernard’s water system. LDH must approve operations of RO units and barging of water.
River Sill: USACE is working to increase the sill to a height of -30 feet on the sides and keep a “notch” in the sill at -55 feet to allow river traffic to travel up and down the river. The sill was constructed in July at river mile marker 64.
These efforts involve numerous partners and are subject to ongoing changes. Despite these prevailing circumstances, Governor John Bel Edwards’ state of emergency is still in effect in Plaquemines Parish.
Plaquemines Parish Government is committed to transparency and engagement with the community in all matters. Including measures related to public health and social well-being, we have implemented a range of strategies to address the challenges posed by the saltwater wedge.
For more information or to stay updated on the status of the saltwater wedge, please visit our website at https://www.plaqueminesparish.com/ or social media: Facebook, X (Twitter), and YouTube.
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