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Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness
7667 Independence Blvd.
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
(225) 925-7500

State Monitoring Mississippi River Oil Spill
July 25, 2008

Baton Rouge, The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) continues to monitor the oil spill clean-up in the Mississippi River. These four parishes in the New Orleans area are affected: Orleans, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and Jefferson. GOHSEP Director Mark Cooper says, “All parties continue to work toward making sure the residents of the parishes affected are safe. Communication between parties has been key to make sure everyone’s needs are met.” 

St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes requested assistance from GOHSEP. Both parishes received bottled water.

  • Plaquemines: Received 15,000 liters of bottled water Thursday per the request of parish officials. The water intake on the West Bank remains closed but could reopen by Friday night. Residents on the West Bank are getting water from Jefferson Parish.
  • St. Bernard:  Parish officials say water pressure should be back to normal by the end of the weekend. Parish officials received 15,000 liters of water Thursday per request.  
  • Orleans: Parish officials maintain the water is safe for consumption. Carnival Cruise Ship will be diverted to Mobile, AL while the Mississippi River is closed.  
  • Jefferson: In the City of Gretna, reports indicate the water is safe for consumption.

Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority:

Officials with the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration have been in contact with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to determine a timeframe for reopening freshwater siphons along the Mississippi River south of the spill site. Due to the nature of the fuel oil, DEQ has informed wetlands officials that some of the oil may become attached to sediments. Efforts will be coordinated with DEQ and those performing the remediation to have booms in place to catch any remaining oil once the Caernarvon siphon is reopened to ensure as little oil as possible enters into coastal wetlands. 

The Davis Pond siphon, which is located north of the spill in St. Charles Parish, will be reopened today after being closed because of Hurricane Dolly entering into the Gulf of Mexico. The siphon will operate with the maximum capacity currently allowable to take advantage of high river stages to pump as much freshwater into the northern Barataria Basin as possible. 

Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality:

More oil is moving to the shorelines where it can be collected. None of it is reaching the refuges down river. DEQ is making progress to get the remaining oil out of the barge and to get the barge out of the water.

Between DEQ and contractors hired by the company, nearly 65,000 analyses have been taken in the spill area. DEQ has found no health concerns in that sampling effort. DEQ is sampling for total hydrocarbons. The contractors have been sampling for benzene, hydrogen sulfide and other chemicals related to the spill and have found nothing of concern. Levels have been below action levels. An action level is when we would recommend that people either shelter in place, evacuate or take some other action.

There are ongoing water-sampling efforts at the water intakes. DEQ is verifying with the water treatment plants that there are no health concerns for drinking water. The few samples that have come back from the lab show the water being drawn into the intake valves are non-detect for total petroleum hydrocarbons. DEQ should get more samples back throughout the day and next couple of days. DEQ, DHH, EPA and other contractors are working on the water sampling efforts. 

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals:

Friday the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals-Office of Public Health and The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries agreed to take precautionary measures in closing three oyster beds near the mouth of the Mississippi river. The three beds being closed are areas 8 and 9 in basin 2, area 7 in basin 4. These three oyster beds will close at sunset Friday, July 25, 2008. At this time there is no evidence of contamination of any of the state’s oyster beds. The closure will continue for an indefinite period of time, until testing proves the oysters in the affected area are not contaminated and safe to consume. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals-Office of Public Health will take periodic samples of the oysters in the affected area, and the Federal Food and Drug Administration will test those samples to determine whether the oysters are safe to eat. The FDA will test for hydrocarbons.

 Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working together to sample and test municipal water supplies in the affected area. DHH is working with local community water systems to assure the water is safe for human consumption. The EPA has contracted with a lab to expedite testing of municipal water samples. The state is still awaiting those test results, which are expected to be ready some time next week. DHH supports local agency’s water recommendations to the public concerning water supplies. DHH is working with parish and city governments on monitoring the municipal water supplies. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s tests have shown river water at the Gretna and Algiers intakes are within safe acceptable limits for hydrocarbons. DHH will continue to test water post treatment to ensure water is safe.

Louisiana National Guard:

The Louisiana National Guard continues to stand ready and prepared to assist with emergency relief efforts in the affected parishes.

Louisiana State Police:
State Police Emergency Services Unit is on scene maintaining situational awareness and stands ready to support the State of Louisiana as needed with regards to the Mississippi River oil spill.

Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry:

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry is closely monitoring the situation and the agricultural interests in the vicinity of the spill. 

Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development:

DOTD has shut down its ferry operations in the area until the Coast Guard re-opens the river. This closure affects the ferries in New Orleans (Canal Street) and Chalmette. The Gretna Ferry will be operating seven (7) days a week from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. until further notice.

At least one of the pieces of the barge came to rest on the fender of one of the piers for the older Crescent City Connection Bridge, but there was no damage to the bridge, and there are no plans to close the bridge. However, once the river is re-opened, DOTD engineers will use SONAR equipment to determine if either sunken piece of the barge is posing any long-term problems for the pier. The concern is that the debris can alter the river's current around the pier, causing damage.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries:

LDWF biologists within the Office of Fisheries and Office of Wildlife continue to work closely with the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office (LOSCO) in the Office of the Governor to devise protection strategies for sensitive wildlife and fisheries resources that may be impacted by the oil release of July 23.  LDWF will continue to monitor the status of the spill and clean up operations, and advise responders as to the location and nature of sensitive wildlife and fisheries resources.  LDWF Enforcement Division staff is on standby to support response efforts as needed.  LDWF biologists have been at the site of reported sheens and report no impacts as yet in Quarantine Bay (Plaquemine Parish, near Empire).  Biologists at Pass-A-Loutre Wildlife Management Area at the mouth of the river also report that they have not detected slicks or sheens at this time.

Corps of Engineers:

The Corps of Engineers is monitoring river conditions so the Corps can address any shoaling that occurs immediately upon clearance from the Coast Guard. We will re-establish dredging in Southwest Pass to reinstate the authorized channel for the safety of navigation. The Corps is also planning for the sanitization of IHNC and Algiers locks to prevent the spread of contamination. 

The spill happened Wednesday morning at approximately 2 a.m. when a ship and a barge collided at mile marker 98 near Harahan. The barge split in half and spilled an estimated 9980 barrels of oil. Affected parishes include Orleans, St. Bernard, Jefferson and Plaquemines.
 


  Media Contact:

  Veronica Mosgrove

   GOHSEP

   (225) 358-5667

    vmosgrove@ohsep.louisiana.gov

   Allison Morgan
   GOHSEP
   (225) 439-3976
   ahadley@ohsep.louisiana.gov

 Related Information
Governor's Office
Parish Contact Directory
Department of Agriculture & Forestry
Department of Health & Hospitals
Department of  Wildlife & Fisheries
LA National Guard
LA Department of Transportation & Development
US Corps of Engineers
LouisianaFloods.org

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