Officials say relief coming to South Plaquemines Parish residents with saltwater issues

Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 11:11 PM CDT
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PORT SULPHUR, La. (WVUE) - Water is once again flowing from the Port Sulphur Water Plant, after the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) gave the Plaquemines Parish government the go-ahead to operate the facility more than two years after it was damaged by Hurricane Ida.

The facility coming back online is welcome news in a parish that has been struggling with saltwater contamination for weeks.

“Last Friday, LDH finally released the Port Sulphur facility so that we can send the water all the way to Venice on the Westbank side,” Plaquemines Parish president Keith Hinkley said. “So, they have good drinking water as we speak.”

Residents still remain under a drinking water advisory from the Empire Bridge to Venice on the West Bank and from Phoenix to Bohemia on the East Bank. But the parish said residents and businesses from West Pointe a la Hache to Venice should be experiencing better water pressure and reduced chloride levels.

Hinkley said the parish has ordered several reverse osmosis units (ROs) to be installed at water treatment facilities, and that the parish began receiving pieces of the first unit this week.

“We’ve secured and procured ROs for the Boothville/Venice plant, we’ve got an RO secured for the Port Sulphur plant, the Corps secured the RO for the East Pointe La Hache facility as well,” Hinkley said. “Pretty much, the two Boothville and Point La Hache (ROs) will be delivered Thursday. And probably by Monday or Tuesday, they’ll be up and running.”

Along with the deliveries, Hinkley said that starting Wednesday the Army Corps of Engineers will begin barging water, and that the reverse osmosis unit ordered for the Port Sulphur facility should be delivered later this week. He said the parish is looking at the possibility of making reverse osmosis a permanent fixture.

“What we’re going to do is explore the ideas of, in the Boothville/Venice facility, to create a permanent reverse osmosis at that facility,” Hinkley said. “Then explore the middle, where Port Sulphur is. Taking a look at that facility and possibly look at building a new plant with a built-in reverse osmosis, so that in the future those facilities will be taken care of.”

Residents in South Plaquemines Parish are still voicing concerns about their water. One is Rochelle Fitte, who has lived in Diamond -- just north of Port Sulphur -- for the past 50 years.

“They’re telling you, ‘Don’t cook with it, don’t give it to the pets, don’t wash the baby in it.’ What are we supposed to do?” Fitte asked. “All you hear on the news is it’s going to hit Belle Chasse this day, it’s going to hit St. Bernard this day, and New Orleans this day. They never mentioned us, our day. We’ve been had our day.”

Fitte pointed to her corroded and rusty sink strainer as one example of the litany of water-related issues she and her neighbors have been facing for weeks.

“This is real serious,” she said. “You’re already looking at the inflation, groceries, that’s going to go up. Water, you can’t get water. It’s going to be bad.”

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