Army Corps to raise height of sill as saltwater continues to edge toward Greater New Orleans Area
ST. BERNARD PARISH, La. (WVUE) - While parts of Plaquemines Parish are already dealing with tainted water due to the saltwater intrusion making its way up the Mississippi River, officials in St. Bernard Parish are preparing for its expected impact.
Due to its location, St. Bernard will be dealing with saltwater intrusion from the wedge before Orleans and Jefferson Parishes.
Parish President Guy McInnis said all data is pointing toward the saltwater wedge affecting St. Bernard’s water system by October 8.
“Hurricane season, you need to stock up on water anyway. This is one more excuse to do that,” said Chalmette Breaux Mart shopper Robert Banks. “I can stock up on drinking water, but how about bathing water? Showering water?”
Parish officials met with the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers throughout the day Monday (Sept. 18) to discuss potential temporary solutions.
“Obviously, the region is coming together, preparing for the worst,” McInnis said. “We produce about nine million gallons of water a day. We’re trying to get as much of that as possible into our system once we come under this crisis.”
McInnis said the parish is looking to construct a reservoir to hold water that will be barged in from upriver. Also, reverse osmosis pumping stations will be used.
Another potential solution McInnis said he’s hoping to learn more about this week: connecting to the Orleans Parish water system.
“They will be able to supply us somewhere between five to seven million gallons a day. We require nine,” McInnis said. “But that will be enough to keep our pressure at a place where our citizens can use the water.”
Meanwhile, the Corps is looking to begin work on raising the sill erected over the summer that’s currently holding the saltwater back.
“We have an underwater sill that we built in July when low water first began, and we’re looking at increasing the elevation of that to prevent the saltwater upstream,” said David Ramirez, Chief of the River Engineering Section at the Corps’ New Orleans branch. “They’re basically dredging from a borrow site in the river and building an underwater levee, underwater sill, because saltwater is denser than freshwater and travels below the freshwater. This sill will basically prevent the upward progression of the saltwater.”
Ramirez said work is being done to ratify an emergency contract for the dredging, without which Ramirez said the sill would be overtopped by September 26.
He hopes raising the sill will buy officials a few more days.
“The sill design we’re doing is to prevent saltwater but also allow navigation. If we would raise the sill so high, we would have a navigation restriction,” Ramirez said.
Port NOLA released the following statement:
“Historically, the construction and maintenance of the sill doesn’t affect Port NOLA operations and shipping traffic. We will continue to work with our agency partners and monitor the process.”
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