PORT SULPHUR, La. -- At the fresh water intake near Port Sulphur, crews are preparing for the arrival of vessels not seen at this site since 1988.
"We're going to take some water from the barges, which is going to have no salt in it, and mix it with the water from the river, which does have salt in it," said Paul Lemaire of Severn Trent Services.
In the coming days, barges will arrive at the water intake, carrying fresh drinking water from upriver. It is a set up that has not been used in nearly 25 years, one of two times the water supply in Plaquemines Parish has been threatened by salt water, coming up the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico.
"We're looking at having to barge this water and keep this going for some time," said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.
The parish is looking at several options to make sure there is enough drinking water. One is to use a 12-inch pipeline already connected to Jefferson Parish's water supply; another is to build an 8-inch pipeline to Orleans Parish, for the same purpose.
"Those two lines we believe will give us enough water pressure and enough capability to take care of Belle Chasse," Nungesser said.
It won't be enough for the lower end of the parish, though, which is where the barges come in -- and a more permanent solution.
The Army Corps of Engineers plans to build an underwater mound in the river, not far from Port Sulphur, to try and block the salt water from coming up. The leading edge of the salt water has already reached the Belle Chasse area.
Time is of the essence, as the long range forecast calls for the lower river levels to remain for a while. As of right now, there are no water restrictions in Plaquemines Parish. Once water is barged in, though, the parish will ask residents to cut back on their usage.