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Water issues continue to plague Plaquemines Parish due to drought

Plaquemines Parish has been suffering from water line breaks and the saltwater wedge in the Mississippi River for months.

BELLE CHASSE, La. — Plaquemines Parish has been suffering from water line breaks and the saltwater wedge in the Mississippi River for months. 

Both issues stem from the same source—drought. 

Over the weekend, residents near Braithwaite Park in Plaquemines Parish lost water when two lines broke. The parish said the lines were made of cast iron and were very fragile. 

Late Saturday night, water was restored, but a boil water advisory remains in effect from Braithwaite to the Phoenix Split. 

Patrick Harvey, Plaquemines Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said the broken water lines are caused by drought. 

“The drought is drying out the ground. The ground tends to shift, at which time the pipes begin to settle in different ways and start breaking. Since the drought, probably July, the parish and its contractor, Inframark, have been dealing with probably about 100 line breaks throughout the entire parish," Harvey said. 

Lower parts of Plaquemines Parish haven't had clean drinking water for months due to a saltwater wedge inching its way up the Mississippi River. 

In July, the Army Corps of Engineers built an underwater sill to slow the wedge, according to spokesperson Rickey Boyett. 

“Ultimately, if we don’t get rain, the saltwater will continue to move upriver," Boyett said. 

The Corps expects the sill to be overtopped by the end of the week and the wedge to reach Belle Chasse by October 3. 

“We’ve begun working to get a dredge in place so we can rebuild the sill," Boyett said. 

The Corps is also working with local and state government to get clean water where it's needed most. 

“One is getting fresh water to the larger facilities and that would be by barging the water down, but if we could get osmosis machines at these smaller facilities, that will take a little bit of weight of the bigger ones," Boyett said. 

Boyett said the ultimate solution though is rain. 

If the Ohio River Valley doesn't see substantial rain soon, the wedge could impact other parishes upstream. 

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