Will low river affect Orleans or Jefferson drinking water?
Shana Rose Reporting
The midwest drought has been wreaking havoc on crops in the nation's bread basket, but the effects can also be felt here, even though we've had an extremely wet summer.
The drought has already created a few emergency situations on the Mississippi River, one of which is a salt wedge moving upstream, threatening local drinking water supplies.
The salt water, which is heavier than fresh water, is moving upstream along the bottom of the river, already affecting the drinking water in Plaquemines Parish. The Army Corps of Engineers is working on constructing an underwater sill, basically a levy that runs bank to bank.
Chief of Emergency Management for the Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District, Mike Stack, says if it does work, (and it appears it is working he says), Orleans, St. Bernard and Jefferson Parishes' water supply will be safe.
"It's actually already completed to a certain elevation and we're seeing some beneficial effects of it," Stack says. The Corps has done this twice before, in 1988 and 1999 and both times he says it was successful.
As of Tuesday, August 21, 2012 Plaquemines Parish has started pumping water from Orleans and Jefferson Parish to the Belle Chasse water intake according to Plaquemines Parish spokesperson Caitlin Campbell. "Jefferson and Orleans Parish operate at a lower water pressure than Plaquemines Parish; therefore residents may notice a slight reduction in the water pressure in this area. This reduced pressure is normal," she says.
In a written statement Campbell writes, "We are asking that all residents and businesses in the parish conserve water for the remainder of this event. Plaquemines Parish is also pumping water from barges to the water intake located in Port Sulphur. These two processes, along with the sill being built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are helping combat the high chloride levels currently in the Mississippi River.
"The toe of the salt water wedge is located at mile marker 89 in the river which is in St. Bernard Parish. The area of high chloride levels begins approximately 15 miles downstream from the toe at mile marker 74 which is below Belle Chasse.