Gov. Bobby Jindal on Wednesday declared a state of emergency for Plaquemines Parish as it deals with encroaching salt water that's threatening drinking water in the New Orleans area.
The declaration clears the way for state agencies to offer help to the parish as it deals with its water supply issues. Due to the Mississippi River's low water levels, salt water has been moving far upriver and was at the outskirts of New Orleans by Wednesday, nearly 90 miles north of the mouth of the Mississippi. Also Wednesday, Plaquemines Parish issued an advisory to parish residents that high levels of sodium and chloride were being measured in drinking water.
The river was closed temporarily to shipping traffic as contractors began building an underwater barrier that the Army Corps of Engineers says will stop the advance of salt water. Many communities along the river draw freshwater from the Mississippi with freshwater intakes and water treatment facilities that are incompatible with saltwater caused by the current intrusion.
Get Grist in Your Inbox
Philip Bump wrote about the news for Gristmill. He now writes for The Atlantic Wire.