New Orleans Declares State of Emergency Over Water Contamination

( – Water is the most precious resource on Earth. It’s literally what sustains life. However, if it isn’t clean, it can also leave people sick and even dead. In Louisiana, one city has declared a state of emergency over the state of its water.

On Friday, September 22, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell signed an Emergency Declaration in response to saltwater threatening the city’s water supply. According to the notice, low water levels in the Mississippi River caused the river to become less resistant to saltwater flowing north from the Gulf of Mexico. The saltwater is threatening the drinking water in the city and in the smaller parishes that get it from the second-longest river in America.

Officials with the US Army Corps of Engineers warn that a saltwater wedge could make it up the river and reach water treatment facilities in October. They’re trying to bring more fresh water to the area and slow down the flow of the water from the Gulf.

Corps Col. Cullen Jones said the freshwater flow rate needs to be more than 300,000 cubic feet per second to keep the saltwater out. However, in Belle Chasse, south of New Orleans, it’s moving at about 150,000 cubic feet per second.

Governor John Bel Edwards (D) held a conference on Friday and called the situation “serious.” He’s requesting help from the federal government, and President Joe Biden approved a federal emergency declaration. The governor explained that “almost 20% of the state could be impacted by” the saltwater wedge.

The wedge has already started to affect the water in southern Plaquemines Parish. The area has been relying on bottled water to help residents stay hydrated since June. Soon, reverse osmosis water purification units will also arrive to help remove the salt from the drinking water. Several other parishes, including Orleans, have asked for water purification units.

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