Governor Bobby Jindal's office has declared a state of emergency in response to the saltwater wedge moving up the Mississippi River.
This clears the way for state agencies to offer help to emergency responders in Plaquemines Parish and elsewhere.
The governor's office issued this news release Wednesday night:
BATON ROUGE, La. – Governor Bobby Jindal declared a State of Emergency in response to Plaquemines Parish on Wednesday, clearing the way for state agencies to offer assistance to the parish as it deals with issues relating to its water supply.
In Louisiana, near historic low water levels of the Mississippi River are creating conditions conducive to allowing saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico to migrate up the Mississippi River. Many communities along the Mississippi River draw freshwater from the river with freshwater intakes and water treatment facilities that are incompatible with saltwater caused by the current saltwater intrusion.
As Plaquemines parish responds to a salt water wedge moving up the Mississippi River, state agencies are working together to assist the parish by providing water and expediting water quality testing for barges that are being brought in to supplement the parish's water supply.
The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is providing 30,000 bottles of water to the parish over the next several days, at the request of Plaquemines parish. GOHSEP transported the first delivery of 6,900 bottles of water to Plaquemines parish on Wednesday. The Louisiana National Guard will deploy a truck that contains 4,000 gallons of water to the parish tomorrow morning and will continue to provide this same supply for five days.
Plaquemines parish issued a drinking water advisory on Wednesday because its water systems are experiencing higher levels of sodium and chloride from a salt water wedge that is moving up the Mississippi River.
The parish wants to use four barges to supplement the local water supply. In order to ensure that this water is safe, the barges must be tested to ensure that they are safe to carry water. The water will be filtered after it is transported. The Department of Health and Hospitals has pledged to expedite the testing of the barges.
To ensure that the testing happens quickly, Louisiana State Police this evening escorted DHH staff members to retrieve the samples from Plaquemines parish and to be returned for testing.
Plaquemines Parish is barging raw Mississippi River water from upstream, above the salt water wedge, to pump into the Port Sulphur and Pointe a La Hache water systems, and help reduce the sodium and chloride content in the drinking water. DHH is testing the water in the barges to ensure it can be treated to meet federal Safe Drinking Water Standards. Once the water is treated, DHH will test it to be certain it meets federal Safe Drinking Water Standards and is safe for human consumption.
The Belle Chase water system will receive fresh water through pipelines from neighboring water systems in other parishes.
The Drinking Water Advisory for sodium and chloride remains in place until fresh water is provided. DHH recommends that people receiving drinking water through systems in this parish who are on dialysis and/or low-sodium diets check with their health care providers related to the levels of chloride and sodium in their drinking water.
The water brought in from the barges and neighboring parishes should help dilute the sodium and chloride levels.
DHH recommends that people receiving drinking water through systems in this parish that are on dialysis and/or low-sodium diets check with their health care providers related to the levels of chloride and sodium in their drinking water. For more information visit the DHH's website at dhh.louisianna.gov.
Local officials have been working GOHSEP, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and surrounding parishes to make sure that residents of Plaquemines Parish are not affected by the salt water wedge.