‘Like Christmas;’ First salt extraction machine arrives in Plaquemines Parish

Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 4:39 PM CDT
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PLAQUEMINES PARISH, La. (WVUE) - In a significant step in the battle against the encroaching saltwater wedge in Plaquemines Parish, work began Thursday (Sept. 28) to install the first desalination unit.

Officials say the machine, designed to extract salt from drinking water, will be a game-changer for the region.

The saltwater wedge, steadily advancing upriver, has been causing increasing concerns among residents as the salinity of the river water continues to rise. Currently, surface water is registering at approximately 250 parts per million (ppm), imparting a salty taste to the water.

“Anything over 250 ppm is not recommended,” Rodney Merritt, with the unit contractor “On Site Water Systems,” explained.

The arrival of this massive desalination unit, transported from North Carolina by two 18-wheelers, marks the beginning of a process that will transform river water, increasingly tainted with salt, into fresh drinking water. Utilizing a reverse osmosis process, the unit will separate salt and impurities from the water, ensuring that only potable water reaches the treatment plant.


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Simultaneously, the Corps of Engineers is engaged in an operation to barge in millions of gallons of fresh water and raise an underwater sill near Alliance.

“We go upstream where the water is not so salty, pump it full of water, and bring it downstream and offload it in a reservoir barge,” said Heath Jones, with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The downstream community of Pointe a la Hache directly benefits from the arrival of the machine.

“The salt and any impurities will be rejected through a side stream and potable water goes to the plant,” said Merritt.

The Pointe a la Hache desalination unit is on track to be operational by the middle of next week, with two additional units scheduled for delivery to Port Sulphur and Boothville within the coming week.

“Glad is not the word. We are excited. This is like Christmas for us,” said Plaquemines Parish Councilmember Rev. Tyronne Edwards.

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