Salt Water Creeps Toward New Orleans Up Mississippi River

Drought is leading to the phenomenon, which is threatening drinking water.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drought upriver has left the Mississippi River so low and slow that salt water is creeping farther than usual along the bottom toward New Orleans and threatening drinking water, the Army Corps of Engineers said Wednesday.

The Corps plans an underwater levee to block the wedge of heavier salt water before it can get into two of the four water treatment plants in Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, officials said in a news conference posted on YouTube.

The structure, called a sill, could be as tall as 45 feet (13.7 meters), which would bring its top high enough to interfere with the extra-large ships the river was recently dredged to accommodate, said Heath Jones, the New Orleans Corps office’s emergency management director.

The Corps said deepening the river also lets the annual saltwater intrusion grow bigger and last longer, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported.

Salt already in the river’s lowest stretch could affect the taste, smell and color of drinking water but is not a general health threat, the Plaquemines Parish government said in an advisory Wednesday. Sodium levels are above those recommended for drinking water for people on very low-sodium diets, so people on such diets or on dialysis should check with their doctors, it said.

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