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OneRouge Community Check-In - Week 176




Now that climate change is real, there are a lot of weird things that are happening. One of them is drought in South Louisiana where we are about 20 inches short of rainfall this year than usual. But it isn't just us; the drought is impacting 40% of the Midwest. And though at first glance that may not seem like it matters, this is a good time to remember that the Mississippi River starts in Minnesota.


Usually, the rainfall from the Midwest fills the river and the flow keeps the saltwater in the Gulf. But without that tension, the heavier salt water is moving up the River from the Gulf … rather, it is intruding.It started in Plaquemines Parish back in the summer. It’s just getting a lot of press now Biden has declared a state of emergency and parishes like Jefferson and Orleans are being threatened. But what does it all mean?



Chenier Kliebert - Executive Director Imagine Water Works

Anna Timmerman - Assistant Extension Agent

Jessica Vermilyea - Disaster Services Consultant


Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!

 

Notes

Casey Phillips: Welcome everybody. Awesome. Yes, it would be. Jessica, really cool to meet you. Kory, thank you so much for joining us as well, and welcome everybody to another amazing edition of Friday. How you feeling over there, Pepper?

Pepper Roussel: I am good. I'm good. It's it's early. It is Friday. Not that Fridays mean anything if you work over the weekends but I am super excited about not only the the folks who we've got speaking today but also the topic cuz like I was saying a little while ago, I can say the words, I can pronounce them properly but I don't know what They all mean so any opportunity I have to get more information, I love it.

And speaking of loving things, seeing all of those, seeing all the one rouge faces, you know how much I love y'all spending a part of your Friday morning with me.

Casey Phillips: Is that a dramatic, is that a dramatic pause so that everybody knows how much you love them, Pepper?

Pepper Roussel: I love them. You know what? I was letting you jump back in the conversation, but seeing your smile. God, thank you, Manny, with my, yes, sir, we've got you.

Manny Patole: She's testing the classroom to see who's paying attention.

That's what she's doing.

Pepper Roussel: Exactly. I do indeed have the power to mute. I have threatened Alfreda Tillman Bester with it more than once. So happy Friday y'all. I really appreciate it. We interrupt the regularly scheduled celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month in order to talk about something that is starting small and or maybe it's starting big. We don't really know. But it started in South Louisiana and we are going to find out what it means.

And it is not climate change. It is not El Niño. It is saltwater intrusion. What we, who we have on the call today are folks who are not only weaving in and out of disaster response but who are also knowledgeable about the topic. We will start to my… this way.

Clint Wilson. If you wouldn't mind letting us know who you are, what you know, and what you do. We'd really appreciate it. It starts now.

Clint Wilson: All right. Thank you. I appreciate it. And good morning everybody. I'm Clint Wilson. I am the Director of the LSU Center for River Studies and Interim Dean of the LSU College of Coast Environment.

I'm gonna let Kory introduce himself in a minute, but first thing I want to say is I appreciate this opportunity to speak to this group about this topic. I think Kory's probably been doing more speaking to the public and some reporters, so he probably has some more well-formed thoughts than I do.

I'm going to say that. The second thing is, I was happy to do this as well as we're heading, I'm taking some friends and colleagues out to Burden, so I got to not wear a tie today. I do have a collared shirt, but at least it's a field shirt.

Anyway, a couple of things I want to hit on, and really I was telling Pepper and them earlier that I think a lot of this is going to be about answering questions, but there a couple of things I wanted to focus on was that the saltwater wedge and this movement of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico up the bottom of the river is, something we now see, we saw it last year and this year as well. But it's not, it's something that really, I think I was looking up some Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers documents, and it was happening in the 30s and 40s also, as far up as Carrollton in New Orleans. So it isn't anything that's overly, let's say surprising. It is something that gets a lot more visibility.

I think the second thing I wanted to say is, there's a difference between where the saltwater wedge front is. and where it's really, where the part of the river is, where the salt water is going to impact the drinking water intakes because that salt water wedge and you really think of it as a wedge right moving up river.

The front of that saltwater wedge is often 10 to 15 miles ahead of where The water in the significant portion of the water in the Mississippi is, has higher salinity levels, which would then be, drawn in from different intakes, whether it's industry or the communities.

The third thing is the timing. And one of the things that came out yesterday from the Corps of Engineers and the sewage and water board, New Orleans was, You know that they actually've knocked back there. They've delayed the or they're looking at the wedge taking longer to get up river or move up river north, right?

While I say north, the Mississippi River doesn't always move north, right? But moving up river they've delayed that. And part of that is because there's a natural, the bottom of the river can be, the deepest part could be 50 feet deep and some places it could be 150 or 200 feet deep, right?

And so that salt water has to move up the bottom of the river. So in some cases, it's got to go up over a hump. In other cases, it's got to fill a big kind of hole in the bottom of the river, for lack of a better word. And so for it to move up above that hole, it's got to fill the hole first. And then move farther up river.

So the timing is very, it, or the movement of that wedge is very complex. And so it's something that, I know the core of engineers and others are actively monitoring. Third, next thing real quick. And again, this may come up because I think we may have some people maybe from over, let's say a little bit more to the south-central part is, there was an article yesterday about maybe decreasing the amount of water Atchafalaya River, right?

In other words, put more water down the Mississippi River in essence to get that wedge or to keep that wedge in place or the saltwater in place or maybe even start to move it back down river. However, that has complicating factors from fisheries and from saltwater getting into Morgan City and some of the communities in the lower Atchafalaya that needs that drinking water. And then the last thing we may talk about, some of you may ask about, and I've gotten some questions was it's I don't the saltwater intrusion, the saltwater wedge. It's moving up the river. It's completely different from the saltwater intrusion. We talked about in Baton Rouge, with the groundwater with our drinking water aquifers, right?

That's a completely different system, completely unconnected to the two. Just because we're talking about that's, what's happening with the saltwater wedge in the river today, that's completely disconnected from the saltwater. Issues that we're dealing with our Baton Rouge greater Baton Rouge area drinking water supplies from groundwater.

Hopefully, that kind of sets the stage for questions. Kory, I'm going to let Kory introduce himself and maybe add to what I said, if that's okay. How'd I do Pepper? Was that? Good timing.

Pepper Roussel: That is absolutely perfect timing. You have 36 seconds left that we will defer that we will defer to later on and we already got a question in the chat.

Please, Kory. Yeah. Introduce yourself. Let us know who you are, what you do and what all of this means.

Kory Konseur: Good morning everyone. My name is Kory Konseur. I'm a professor in the Department of Geography and Anthropology. And I study rivers you know in all kind of different forms.

Mostly on, on the physical processes and so looking at how the hydraulics in the river are influencing sediment transport and then how those rivers changed through time. Yeah, and I think Clint hit on a lot of the good topics. So not a whole lot to add, I think in terms of, maybe just moving to the Q and A.

And I was trying to jump ahead and read that link that Manny posted. Yeah, and I think the link, and I had problems, Manny, actually, good to see you, Manny. Actually, good to see a number of familiar names and faces on here. But, Manny, I think, one of the…

Clint Wilson: Real quick, Kory, if you don't mind, I'm going to jump in, because I did actually want to bring that up, is in the last couple years, the Corps of Engineers has been authorized to deepen the Mississippi River to 50 feet.

The navigable channel in the Mississippi River to 50 feet. Okay. And so one of the concerns that was brought up even in their feasibility study and the work that was, basically the benefit-cost analysis was with the deepening of the river. Enhance the ability for that saltwater wedge to move upriver.

Okay. And, one of the things that I look back on with, in the core of engineers, some of the documents and a little bit of work that one of the former hydraulic chief hydraulics river engineering person for the core mentioned was even when the river was authorized to 35 feet, the saltwater wedge was moving up, in the thirties and forties was moving up to New Orleans, or had moved up to New Orleans.

I'm not saying that this year it maybe wasn't exacerbated by deepening of the river to 50 feet or the navigation channel at 50 feet, it isn't something that I don't think at this point we know there's a direct link. Does that make sense, Manny? What I'm saying? Yeah.

Kory Konseur: Yeah, maybe just to add to that too. And again I don't know this, but in terms of kind of just thinking about how those processes would work out as Clint mentioned, you, if you have a deeper hole in the river, that saltwater has to fill it from the bottom up. So it would probably also depend on where those outtakes are within the depth of the channel, right? If they're not very deep, then that over-deepening, I don't know would affect too much of the issue at hand in terms of impacting drinking water and consumptive use for factory. And another thing to maybe add onto that is it, it has to do with, yes, the river flow rate is currently very low, but it's really as much about how long the river has been low, right?

Because If the river is at a very low flow for a week, that saltwater wedge does not move very far. right? So you've got to have extended weeks, a couple of months of time for that wedge to move up and without the river basically coming down and forcing that salt water back out to the Gulf of Mexico.

And of course, that's being driven last year and again this year by, if not drought conditions very low precipitation within the Mississippi River Basin again this year, which I think we were hoping.

Clint Wilson: Now, Pepper, this is where I'm going to go to my to Kory for a second. I think we were in a La Niña year now.

Is that right, Kory? Does that sound right? I thought, I was a time pathologist. I know. It was La Niña though. I thought we had another. Okay. It was like two years in a row. We were in a year. Yeah. Okay. One of the things that happened last after the last fall of 22s drought was they were hoping the weather patterns were going to change that would basically get us out of that drought period.

And obviously that did not occur. So whether it's lending, you'll need, or some other name. Okay. Obviously that did not happen.

Pepper Roussel: Now, I need a climatologist. Thank you. Yeah. Intersection of water and law. Oh, yeah. Yeah. We should have Anna Timmerman. He'll be dropping on in just a second while we're waiting on her to get here since Jessica's got a camera.

Now, I feel obligated to go to her next. Yeah.

Jessica, your five minutes starts now. Please let us know who you are, what you do and stuff like that.

Jessica Vermilyea: Yeah, I'll give you the five minutes. Yeah. For those of you who were not on early in the game, my camera was not working. I was on a different platform this morning and apparently it didn't want to, it was swirling.

While you guys were talking, I appreciate the little time from Clint there. While you guys were talking, I actually flipped my camera, my whole computer around and I'm using the rear camera because when one thing doesn't work, use something else. That's what we do in disaster work. And However, I don't have a lot of control over my keyboard and stuff.

So if I disappear, you see my wall, just know that there's a lot going on. So good morning, everybody. So good to be with you all. And I was disappointed. I wasn't going to be able to be on camera. It's going to put the grandkids up, but my name is Jessica Vermilyea. The reason I'm at this meeting, I have lots of different hats to wear, and the reason I'm at this particular meeting is I am currently serving as the president for Louisiana VOAD and it stands for Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, if you're not familiar with it. And so I don't do meteorology other than to try and figure it out like everybody else. I don't do the deep science deed. I don't do the technology end of it.

I do the people end of it. My job is the people end and trying to liaison between good government and people and all the things. And so Louisiana VOAD is really a coalition. It is, there is also national VOAD. And as a coalition of nonprofits and faith-based organizations, all the ones who do the good in the world who work together to try and not duplicate efforts, right?

When a disaster happens, and a lot of our organizations have specific niches that they work in and it may be repair, rebuild, or. feeding people or mass care for sheltering and things like that. And so trying to coordinate who's doing what where as best that we're able in a collaborative and cooperative way.

We say we always use the four C's, which are Cooperation, Communication, and Collaboration work doesn't always happen because people don't always work well together and there's not always good communication. And one of the things that we do, so just for my background, I worked in the real world and, had no clue about disaster. for quite some time, had kids and then Katrina happened.

And then as we all know, we all became very familiar with disaster. So for the last 17 years, I've worked with Lutheran Social Services, disaster response, doing a lot of on-the-ground work with long-term recovery and disaster work for years and years in Louisiana and Texas. I left that position last year.

I currently do consulting work in the disaster world, basically doing the same sorts of things. So right now, for example, I'm working still with a lot, about seven different long-term recovery organizations that are still work, doing work for recovery from Hurricane Ida. So we know that all of these things have long-term impacts on our populations who have already been, inundated with disaster after disaster.

for this disaster. As I like to say, Louisiana is doing it differently this year. So we're doing wildfires. We're doing saltwater or seawater or whatever you want to call it disasters. We're learning to do things differently. When you think you know everything, it's best just to dive in and do something different.

I think for us and for me in particular, we just want to make sure that we are able to communicate the best information we can that comes at us. to make sure that vetted information is getting out to our organizations who are working on the ground and communicating directly with the people so that they can share good and valid information.

Obviously, with social media now, there's sometimes things out there that make people panic or question or not know. And so we want to make sure that people in the community, especially those who are most vulnerable, have the best information. And so we want to communicate out the best information possible.

We want to make sure that we're not duplicating efforts in communities when there's a need, whether it's a wildfire or hurricane or tornado, a water emergency, right? And so we want to make sure that we have folks who are working in different areas that we're not missing. Areas. And so we want, when there are areas that are not getting attention or don't have resources, those are the kinds of things we want to try to identify so that we're making sure that people are being justly and fairly provided with information as well as resources in that recovery or in order to prepare.

And so that's a lot of work that we do. As I like to say, I work a lot with the state. I work a lot with the governor's office of health on security and emergency preparedness. We use lots of acronyms in my work. I work a lot with FEMA. Y'all know who that is, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And so we try to help remind them about the humans, right?

And we also try to coordinate that information that's coming out so that we can help people understand what's going on because we don't always do a great job of disseminating that information down to people. So like with this disaster I think there's a lot going on for mitigation purposes, trying to eliminate Hopefully, concern for the water crisis.

Thankfully, we're not in a hurricane. So we do have unusual for us. We have some time to prepare which is what we should be doing. We also don't have to worry about hopefully like a hurricane situation where electricity is out. Roads are closed. We don't have access to stuff and there's an issue with logistics or even be able to access water.

We do have access to water. That shouldn't be an issue. If that need comes and we have to, certainly address Orleans and Jefferson are the largest populations that East Bank and Jefferson Parish are the largest populations of people and so that obviously impacts a greater area. I know Clay's going to talk a little bit, the work that they're doing with Imagination Waterworks.

Very similar. All those organizations who are out there just doing good work on the ground. That's where it hits, right? That's where it does work hits and that's what you guys do. We want to make sure that you guys have the information that you need in order to make good decisions when that information is available.

Good information is not always available honestly. And so we want to make sure that we're pushing out the best information, not causing panic, but understanding that there is a high level of concern for making sure that people are taken care of, right? So one of the things that we do so what we do is our organization liaisons with the governor's office.

So when there is an emergency like that, if there is a need for volunteers or request, local government is first. So local government, if they have, it's local first. So if the local government needs something and they push that request up to the state and the state requests us to do something, then we push our request out.

That doesn't mean that there's not things happening. on the ground. It just means there's a way that information comes up and gets requested out. You guys doing the work on the ground that helps there not be an issue to even get pushed up to the state level. It's all about making sure that the coordination is happening on the ground at the local level.

That's where it should be happening. That's where the people are. You all know the people and that's where it should be happening. So we want to make sure that's happening. This particular response does have a federal emergency declaration that is for public assistance only what we call PA work. It does not cover individual assistance, but it does allow the local governments and the state to be able to access resources that are available to them for emergency measures and preparing like some of the, getting water in.

or some of these emergency measures that are going on. The state does still have a cost share for anything that they spend underneath that as well. It's usually 75, 25% on the state.

Pepper Roussel: The other thing I just want to, Jessica, can I interrupt you just for a second? I've got Anna Timmerman who is on the line and I know she's got very a very small window.

Jessica Vermilyea: Yes, let her go. And you guys can always reach me here. I'll just say this real quick. What you guys can do. Keep doing what you're doing. Get out good information. Question things. Get out good information. Know your communities. Make lists of people in your communities who, go ahead and make those lists of people who may need that help, right?

So that we know who needs to be served if something does happen and then be available to volunteer to do water deliveries if we get to that point and need that.

Pepper Roussel: Thank you, Anna.

Jessica Vermilyea: And I will put my information in the chat too so you guys have it if you need to reach out.

Pepper Roussel: Perfect.

All right looks like she's having some problems getting off mute in the interim. We do have several questions that have popped up in the chat already and I want to make sure that we get to all of them up to and including Can you, like, how do I explain this? Can you explain this issue to me as if you were talking to a three-year-old?

But before we do that, I want to make sure that CLE has an opportunity to introduce themselves. Jessica's already mentioned the work that they are doing down in the parishes. And it's pretty exciting stuff. On the ground, CLE, if you can give us a couple minutes, who you are, what you're doing.

Chenier (Klie) Kliebert: Absolutely. Hey, y'all. My name is Chenier Kliebert, I go by Klie. I am the co-founder and executive director of Imagine Waterworks. We've been around a little bit over a decade focusing on climate disaster readiness and response and land stewardship. So we have a hub in New Orleans that we operate out of.

It's a scrappy little farm, but we can also bring in pallets and get pallets out to folks. So we do a lot of rapid response organizing out of that space. In response to the saltwater wedge, we have been working on getting refillable, reusable 5-gallon jugs out to folks. We started that pretty early on partially to give people an outlet because everyone was sitting around and being like what do I do?

I need to do something with all this energy. And we wanted to do something that would reduce single-use plastic, that would limit folks actually buying bottled water when it's needed in Plaquemines. We wanted something that would encourage people to think about how you can work with your neighbors and respond creatively to the saltwater wedge instead of just the kind of go-to consumption mindset.

So we are passing those out and encouraging people to stay connected to us. We always share information about what's going on, but we limit it to the verified information. We're trying to reduce the overall panic and anxiety that's out there. And we've done that for every hurricane, every flood.

We also generally are answering the questions of not just what's going on, but what do we do about it? Personally, I've lived and worked in Baton Rouge too. And so I'm invested in all of southeast Louisiana. And yeah, I am around to troubleshoot and think through things together, and we will be around for many more decades.

Pepper Roussel: Gorgeous. Thank you. Appreciate it. All right, so Anna's not made it off mute yet, so we are gonna shift to the questions that we've got already.

Anna Timmerman: Hey, this is Anna Timmerman, I do apologize. I just have a few minutes with my other responsibilities, but I'm Anna Zimmerman with the LSU AgCenter. I can comment on gardening and livestock impacts with saltwater. I've been working in lower Clackamas on this all year since June, and it's been an issue with hurricanes, too, so if anyone has...

any questions about fault impact to gardens or livestock. They can reach me through the LSU Ag Center or Dr. Joe Willis in Orleans Parish or Chris Dunaway in Jefferson Parish. We all have the right research-based information and can assist you.

Pepper Roussel: So since we, since part of the walls project, our sister program is batten roots figured that this would be a really good time to ask some questions around what does this mean for the farmers, gardeners, folks who like to eat natural food that just came out of the ground yesterday? So really quick Baton Rouge in particular uses groundwater and we, and so help me understand cause something that Clint had mentioned was that it's not the same saltwater intrusion.

What is the, what should you be worried about if there's anything to be worried about if you are actually growing?

Anna Timmerman: So in terms of food that we consume, all of our winter crops for the most part are moderately tolerant to salt, so I have zero concerns there. The issue that I'm trying to dig into more for Orleans Parish is the possibility of corroding lead and what impact that will have on soil lead levels.

So that's something that we're working with the University of Lafayette ULL, University of Louisiana Lafayette to determine and doing a lot of testing. So if there is a red flag there for Orleans Parish, that information will be made public through all the media outlets. In terms of citrus trees, no impact as long as they're not little baby seedlings.

Most of the sensitive species of plants that we grow commonly in our area are more ornamental. So things like begonias, orchids, peperomias, a lot of our sensitive tropicals. So I'm not greatly concerned there. I really do eat a lot of produce. I grow in the ninth ward and most of what I eat comes from my garden.

So I'm monitoring it pretty closely, but salt levels are not anticipated to get above a level where we see any negative impact in terms of root health, leaf health, anything like that. It will be safe to consume that produce.

Pepper Roussel: Gorgeous. And I know that you've got to jump off in just a second. Just one really quick follow-up question. The lead levels, right? Do we have any scholarship or any ideas on what it will look like for plants that might be taking in heavy metals through their roots. How will that impact if that happens?

Worst case scenario.

Anna Timmerman: We don't. The answer is we don't, which is why I'm monitoring and sending samples in weekly. So in terms of edible crops, we have soil lead in our urban areas, and it's always a great idea to grow and raise bed. It's an older city. It's always a concern where we live. If you buy property anywhere in the city, you usually have a lead disclosure that's included with that.

It's always a good idea to test your soil for lead. Before you start gardening and in urban areas, we really do recommend raised beds or containers. So that's a minimum of 12 inches of soil that's clean, fresh that you bring in. And I can tell you that in the older neighborhoods, that lead is definitely there.

It's not going to get absorbed into a lot of produce items. It's usually the exposure coming from soil particles adhering to root vegetables. Lead is a very heavy, large particle. It doesn't get sucked up in many cases. It's rare when it is able to be mitigated and sucked up as a, a plant mitigation response, like for a Superfund site.

That's been studied intensively, but in terms of produce lead levels, we are not anticipating that to reach any kind of level where we wouldn't be able to consume that produce.

Pepper Roussel: All right. So thanks, Anna. I know that you've got a hop. So while we are still on the topic of consumption is from our, for our panelists, is there anything that we need to be concerned about? Oh, and Anna, thank you so much for being here. Is there anything that we need to be concerned about and consuming the water?

Anna Timmerman: That I cannot comment to, I'm not a medical doctor. I'm a plant doctor, so I can't comment on human health impacts or pet health impacts. I really do encourage people to reach out or follow the parish departments of health, the state departments of health. What they are saying is 250 ppm. That's when we start tasting it 350.

That's when we got some red flags for people with comorbidities. But yeah it's not known what is going to come out the pipe, right? We're all waiting to see what's going to happen with the army core mitigation, with the pipeline, with the fill with all that rain that just hit the upper part of the river system.

It takes 90 days for fresh water to flush down the Mississippi River from the upper basin. Then we got some good rain in the lower basin. So it's a whole lot of question marks and everyone that I know is monitoring very closely including the farmers.

Pepper Roussel: I imagine they would. Jessica?

Jessica Vermilyea: Yeah, just real quick because I do have to also hop off for my nine o'clock that I'm now late for but I just I did want to throw this in there as that question came up.

So one of the concerns we do have again, not a reason to panic unless your area is definitely impacted and you are told not to drink the water coming from the faucet, which obviously we hope doesn't happen in the upper areas, but is currently happening in Plaquemines, obviously, right? It has been ongoing since June.

One of the things that is a high level of concern is for those mothers who are mixing powdered formula for infants. That can be a severe health issue and concern for potential infant morbidity because of that. We don't want people mixing faucet water in areas that have been impacted and have been told not to use their water, that they need to use bottled water.

WIC families are not able to purchase ready-to-feed formula because it's not allowed under the WIC program as a higher-cost piece and so that's not allowed. They're looking at potential waivers for that if needed. There also has been over the last several years a shortage of that product due to some things that happened years ago with some recalls and they just never caught up and it's like I said, it's a higher-end cost for those products.

So we do want to make sure that in any areas where there is impact we're making sure that those families who have infants who may be mixing powder formula are getting a sufficient amount of bottled water to be able to do that. We also want to make sure especially from your guys and that is a communication piece that's very important, right?

We want to make sure that families are aware of that. It's not only the moms who are taking care of the kids. We know there are a lot of grandparents who take care of infants. We know sometimes the 15-year-old older sister's taking care or the cousin or someone else is taking care or daycares. We just want to, and we get our habits, right?

I used this yesterday. So the habit is, even when your electricity's off, how many times do you walk through the house and hit the switch, right? Because it's habit. How many times are you gonna go to the faucet? Putting signs on your faucet, right? Do not use the water, right? Don't eat the bad food.

Things to trigger your mind not to do things that you're in a habit of doing. One of the things we talked about, we're also working with the biz and we have a business emergency operations center as well as getting messaging out to ask retailers if they can put signs up next to those products to remind people not to mix them with water from the tap.

So just things like that, that we would not normally think of on a day to day. LDH Louisiana Department of Health is, on top of that and trying to get messaging out. But again, people aren't necessarily going to that. They're going to trusted agents within their communities like you all. And so making sure that we're able to share that information in a way that's consumable by people in languages and in ways they can understand, if that makes sense, that's the last thing I'm going to, and I'll hop off, but thank you all so much.

I appreciate it.

Pepper Roussel: Thanks for being here. Jessica. Appreciate it. So speaking of languages, there is a question that Marcella has alluded to in the chat because she works with the immigrant community. Do we have any resources that are in languages that are other than English where folks can go to find out what it is that they need to do, what the danger is if there's anything that's pressing or impending. for them in their community.

Jessica Vermilyea: I'm still sitting here so I'll answer that real quick. NOLA Ready does a lot of language translation for their work and so you can often check on their website at NOLA Ready. They always do Spanish, oftentimes Vietnamese, and other languages as well.

Pepper Roussel: Hi y'all. Fantastic.

Chenier (Klie) Kliebert: There is information on the saltwater issue in Spanish and Vietnamese. I'll look for the link and share it.

Pepper Roussel: Thanks, Klie.

Alright. Is there a solution? Like how do we fix this? Is there any more than the wedge? Is there something that can be done in order to well, I mean that and rain dances. Is there something that can be done that can actually fix the problem?

Casey Phillips: I I see Kory and Clint wanting to. Alright, there he is, Clint.

Clint Wilson: I'm not sure we want to cuz I think I don't think there's an answer right now, right? I think except for these really expand if you saw in the newspaper, these, 250, 500 million dollar pipelines to bring water from farther up river down to the greater New Orleans area. I think from a physical, from, I'm going to say an engineering perspective, that's. One way, right?

But the sill that they build so that I'm going to say the speed bumps that they put in the river, was one way that has worked over the last couple of years. But again, or the last couple of times because. The river was probably not, it was not at low flow for as long a period of time.

So I know that's a very unsatisfying result. I don't know if maybe Kory has any other ideas, but I don't see any right now. Just because, the other part of this is you have to maintain, the Corps of Engineers is authorized by, or told by Congress, you have, they have to maintain a 50 foot depth for deep water navigation.

And, that means, they can't put a, In some places they can't build a sail or a speed bump up to, 20 ft to go out in the river is only 20 ft deep at that point because then the ships can't get in and out. Does that make sense? Does that track a little bit? So really the pipelines, but then those are really expensive to bring the water from farther up river.

Do you want me to real quick go back to Marcella's question though about the explain this issue as a 3-year-old? How's that? If we turn the Mississippi River off, so we go up to Mississippi or somewhere north there and just, we turned the spigot off, right? So there was no water coming down the Mississippi River from the watershed.

The Gulf of Mexico water would move, probably would be able to move up the bottom of the Mississippi or up the Mississippi River channel in the Mississippi because the bottom of the Mississippi River. Does not get above sea level until you get up into Mississippi. So does that make sense? So you can think of it as a big valley.

And so if we didn't have all that water coming down from the watershed, the Gulf of Mexico, the water would just move up the river. And we'd have a big estuary, or, a bay all the way up into Mississippi. So if you stood on the banks in New Orleans or Baton Rouge or whatever, and there was no water coming down the Mississippi river.

It would all be saltwater. Okay. But because Mississippi River flows are typically high, high enough, large enough. It pushes that salt water out or keeps that salt water out in the Gulf of Mexico. So that's, that's hopefully that helps a little bit with question number one in terms of that why the salt water does want to move up, right?

Just because. It's denser than the freshwater and it would move up very far if it wasn't for the Mississippi River flows coming down.

Kory Konseur: Yeah maybe just to add on to that the bed of the Mississippi, the kind of average depth of the river goes below sea level just downstream of Natchez, so pretty far up. I think it's 350 river miles up from the Gulf. When you put it in that context yeah, this the river, even, in Baton Rouge has enough force to keep that salt wedge from propagating up. But I think the concern too, is even with.

Some rain, smaller precipitation events within the different parts of the basin. I think, unfortunately, we're really looking at needing some large storms and even getting through the winter with some snowpack to bring us back out just like we did last year, right?

Pepper Roussel: That creates a whole nother series of questions.

Like how is that? Is that helpful? If we get additional storms, does that create new emergencies? Marcella, I see your hand up and there's a question in the chat. So basically the saltwater is going upwards. It is.

Clint Wilson: Yeah. So while the salt water is moving up, realize the Gulf of Mexico is sitting up here.

It's let's say it's sea level. Okay. And all of the Gulf of Mexico is salt water. Let's just for sake of argument and so what happened and it's denser than the freshwater that's coming down. The freshwater goes out over top the denser salt water and then that denser salt water because it's got, it's sitting at sea level wants to push inland.

And the pressure on that of that salt water, it wants to push the salt water up river and as Kory said, theoretically up to Natchez, but the freshwater that's coming down the Mississippi River is pushing it back out. Joaquina, I hope that kind of answers your question, but it is that's what's trying to, that's what's going on within the river.

Pepper Roussel: Klie, I know you're working already down in Plaquemines trying to get fresh water to folks. First question is for you, and that is, how does the water get into the buckets, the gallon, the five-gallon buckets that you're distributing? And then the second question is one that's coming from the chat, whomever can answer it, what does this mean for our seafood?

Chenier (Klie) Kliebert: Yeah. So the idea around the five-gallon jugs is actually that folks will fill them up in places where the water is still okay. So a large part of that was to get especially New Orleanians thinking about, hey, you don't have to go buy up all the bottled water right now. Keep using the water that is as safe as it ever was to drink.

And we're also encouraging folks with transportation to go outside of the impacted area, fill them up and bring them back in. Okay. And that can be done at family's houses, it can be done at Walmart, or Whole Foods. I think you can fill it up for like less than a dollar at Walmart. And then keep them so that if we can get water tanks down, then there'll be distribution points to go to and refill them.

And that's something we've been talking about too with the city of New Orleans, should it impact New Orleans, is coordinating that sort of response. Worst case, folks will just reuse them for storm prep next year.

Yeah, a large part of it is actually to get people to think creatively and calm down a little bit in terms of this is not a hurricane in which an entire region is wiped out and we don't have transportation and get stuff in and we have all of the systems down over a large area. You can hop on over to Slidell.

You can hop on over to Ponchatoula where my parents are. There are ways to get water closer to us than what would happen otherwise in a big storm that we're used to preparing for. It's it's a double, it's a double thing. We're trying to resource people something tangible, but also hopefully helping on the mental health front.

Pepper Roussel: I'm all about the mental health. That follow up question. What does this mean to our seafood? And then why didn't we do anything before this became a crisis? Why? Why did we wait? All the levels of the river were low. Why? Or why didn't we do anything or could we do something?

Clint Wilson: I'm not a seafood expert, but this should not have an impact on any of this, the seafood or that industry. Just because, the areas in Barataria, Brenton Sound, Atchafalaya et cetera, are not gonna be impacted because they're not impacted by the low flow in the Mississippi River.

I shouldn't say maybe the lower Atchafalaya, or maybe but again, this is the low time of the year for that. But I think the question about why we didn't do anything we could probably have a conversation on that once a month about some other topic around. wildfires around flood risk around whatever.

But I do please point about, thinking of, getting people to think creatively and, I don't, I'm not trying to pass the buck here or whatever. But I think we think about, getting drinking water before hurricane or filling up the bathtubs, those kind of things.

I do think that is important for us to do. One other thing, and I think Klie and some others brought this up, I think the other one who does the disaster work, realized, the Corps of Engineers the water and sewage board, et cetera they're monitoring the levels in the river itself.

So don't think one day you're, okay, I'm going to say this. Don't think one day you're just going to turn on your water and it's going to be really salty, right? There's going to be a lot of notice ahead of time. This is going to happen and it's in the projections now or it's been delayed a couple weeks from what we thought even earlier this week in terms of any potential impact.

So I don't want to minimize the threat, but I think we want to make sure that it's not all of a sudden, you're going to turn on your water and it's going to be like now I can have a saltwater aquarium or something, right?

Pepper Roussel: You don't know, I might have wanted a saltwater aquarium.

Clint Wilson: No, I'm not saying you shouldn't have one.

Pepper Roussel: I'm only teasing. I'm only teasing. So there's also a question about the so we've talked about the language Translations. Is there anything that we are doing in order to inform the unhoused or the unsheltered who are in the impacted areas? Are we removing them from the area? Are we just telling them don't drink the water?

What's happening with them? Do we know?

Chenier (Klie) Kliebert: I can't speak at least to New Orleans. There's a group of other mutual aid groups who have calculated how much water unhoused folks, at least in New Orleans, would need to keep going during this time and their plans in the works. for that. And we're piecing together something to where if all else fails, we can handle that in other places.

Pepper Roussel: Sort of fundamental. Is this one of the things that can be solved with a boil water advisory?

Clint Wilson: No.

Thank you very much. Let us move on.

Kory Konseur: You're boiling away the water and the salt remains, right? So you'd have to have some very complicated distillation system, right? And another thing actually brought up and I saw this I think WWNO has a list of kind of freak, ask questions and even a typical Brita filler filter or whatever won't remove the salt.

You have to have a much more expensive and complex filter in order to remove any of the salts. We won't get into double osmosis and these other terms. Okay. But I can post that link to the WWNO. They've got some good information on that. I was going to bring that up in terms of kind of What can be done?

And I know Clint mentioned, barging in water, piping in water. And, I don't know a whole lot about this, but I have read, articles where they're looking to put these, reverse osmosis filtration systems down there, but they are very expensive. I think that it was 5 million for each system, something like that. But in thinking about why didn't anything happen before, weather is. It's very unpredictable. We hope that there's going to be rain soon. We don't know how long this is going to last. We hope that next year we won't be in the same situation that there will be enough precipitation within the winter months to keep us at higher sustained, lower discharges on the river.

But I guess the question could be, our, is this becoming more regular of a concern and investing in those types of filtrations, whether that's. a good idea. And again, I can't speak to that, just in terms of kind of thinking out that, that plan ahead that's what it might take.

Clint Wilson: And I think Jessica could probably have spoken to this a little bit, in terms of. Between now and next fall, what other disasters might we have to deal with? You know what I mean? Just that, the memory, right? This whole what's the, there's a term here, right? Probably in sociology about disaster memory.

And how long does this stay on the front page or in the headlines and what gets funded? What can becomes the priority? Unfortunately,

Pepper Roussel: so we're talking about the water that's coming out of the pipes in particular the filtration, right? So you mentioned that the filtration systems to desalinate or take the salt out of the water are expensive.

Do we even have those in Louisiana? Is there a larger one? Have we even thought about that?

Clint Wilson: Crickets. There's not a cricket emoji here, is there? The I don't, my guess. Okay, here's what I would imagine is that places like Plaquemines Parish would probably, oh, thank you. There it is. Places like Plaquemines, they're, they bring in these desalinization and reverse osmosis, but they're not part of their normal drinking water system.

So they bring them in, cause there are industries and other, offshore rigs, et cetera, that have to use these. They, they can they're available. It's just, they're expensive. And then you have to put them within your existing infrastructure, which I think actually becomes then even more, it becomes expensive and it's, but I think, what we, what you would see then over time would be, you're going to move up from Plaquemines Parish to St.

Bernard's Parish to Orlean, you start thinking about, okay, how far up do you have to put these type of units in your, on your water treatment systems? If that makes sense. Hopefully that makes a little bit of sense there.

Chenier (Klie) Kliebert: Yeah. Part of the issue with reverse osmosis too is that it two thirds of the water's unusable.

Clint Wilson: Yeah, it's very expensive. And then you have to deal with the wastewater from the reverse osmosis then. Yeah. Because now you have heavy brine. Heavy, sorry, clay. That's right. Yeah, so you still have to get the water to the reverse osmosis system, which is not going to help if all the water is shut off across the city.

So there's that to start with and then if you do happen to get water to it, you have the majority of the water. Being completely unusable, you have to do something with that it's gonna be incredibly expensive to, you're saying three times the cost of water for folks, and so it's one of those solutions that's being proposed by many folks, but we actually haven't jumped on it because we have these concerns about that idea.

Pepper Roussel: So that reminds me of a question that was in the channel a while ago. I don't know that y'all are going to be able to answer it, but we'll give it voice. What happens if you can't use the water that's coming out of the tap? Is there some sort of plan in place that you don't want to pay for it?

I get the feeling it's very much like energy whenever my power goes out because there's been some sort of a natural disaster that they charged me for putting it back on. Any water coming out of the tap we've actually, we were talking about a couple of different parts of South Louisiana, not that they are.

Removed from each other. But the question is about Baton Rouge water, which is groundwater. And you Plaquemines, Jefferson, Orleans water, which is potable water that's coming from the Mississippi. Theoretically. Remi, I know we, y'all mentioned it earlier, but there's been a lot of words since like high top of the call.

What is the difference? Between the salt water for Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge and the salt water that we're talking about that's coming out of the river.

Clint Wilson: Okay, so the salt water that's in the Mississippi River is coming, from the Gulf of Mexico. And all the communities and industries along the river until you get basically to Baton Rouge are using. the Mississippi River for their drinking water for their processing, etcetera.

In Baton Rouge, we get all of our drinking water from the groundwater aquifers that are 800, 1000, 1,500, 2,000 feet beneath the earth beneath the surface of the earth. And, but what's happening in Baton Rouge and again, this is where, when you don't have a simple cartoon or diagram, it's a little hard to imagine, but there's a geological kind of, they call it fault, but let's say a geological wall that's separating the groundwaters that are salty south of Baton Rouge from the groundwater that we use.

In the greater Baton Rouge area, but what's happened over time because of the extensive pumping from industry as well as public supply is that we're starting to pull some of that salt water through this, what we maybe thought originally 80 years ago was an impermeable wall, right? We now find it's not impermeable.

And so as we draw more and more groundwater for industry and community and public supply, we're basically pulling some of that salt water through north into the Baton Rouge, the aquifers and underneath Baton Rouge. And so again, it's different sources of ground of saltwater, right? It's the time scales are significantly different.

We're talking about years and decades for the saltwater to move under the ground instead of the saltwater wedges moving up. I'm not even gonna say how many a mile a day or whatever it was. So it's a different time scale, you don't, and I know one of the questions I think someone asked is no, in Baton Rouge, you do not have to worry about salt water in your, at least for the decades.

Pepper Roussel: Are there other impacts to Baton Rouge then? Very much like every other natural disaster where we've got New Orleanians who escape to the high ground of East Baton Rouge Parish. Is that something that folks in EBR and the region should be concerned about?

Clint Wilson: Are you referring to the groundwater issue?

Pepper Roussel: No, the fact that so if we are saying that the drinking water is suffering from saltwater intrusion for a number of reasons and or even if it comes through the pipes that there could be some issues with lead contamination, which have long-term health implications.

Will the folks or is there a reason that we should expect folks who are in New Orleans might go to Baton Rouge at least for a time until it's over, right? So just like we would see an evacuation, a hurricane evacuation, or even the outcomes of that. Is that something that our folks should be concerned about with their populations and serving?

Clint Wilson: That's a great question. I was hoping someone else would answer that. How's that? No, I think it's definitely something you want to consider. The time skip, again, I think somebody mentioned early on the timescale hurricane is to, you get two or three days and then people evacuate immediately.

And then in this case, we there are still several weeks before I think the yeah. a majority of the population. And I'm gonna say in the greater New Orleans area would have to be concerned about this. I think, the point clean is bringing up is wonderful in terms of thinking about it, though, and being prepared, is exactly a spot on.

I don't think I don't know how you would prepare for something like this, because the other part is there's a difference between the little I know about some of the disaster responses. There's also a difference between, hey, there's an immediate kind of evacuation versus there's a fact, an evacuation that's taking place over a couple weeks time.

Does that make sense in terms of preparing and maybe understand the severity and the response? Oh, yes. So Marcella, yes, it's fine for people to drink the faucet water beverage. It's Top two or three drinking water in the United States, as a matter of fact.

Casey Phillips: Kory, I see you off of mute. Did you have something to contribute?

Kory Konseur: I know I was just kind of processing what Clint and Klie were talking about. And, I think, I'm not a Louisiana native. I've only been down here for 10 years. I come from the Midwest, hurricanes in particular are… Quite concerning to me.

And I was just trying to put myself because I don't think that we'll be at risk here in Baton Rouge, but if I did live in new Orleans, how I would respond to a kind of a ban on using faucet water, right? If there's bottled water coming in or would we leave so I was just trying to think that through, but another concern of things that we may, is just economic, right?

The price of everything going up because we're not shipping as much crops from. From agriculture and everything else, just seeing these inflated prices as a result of the low water on the river regardless of the sill, right? The river being so low and now two years in a row. Yeah, I guess other things to economic to, to consider.

Chenier (Klie) Kliebert: Yeah, in New Orleans something coming up for us is the need to... As a disaster preparedness organization, start putting out materials on how to prepare for this because some things can be similar know where you're going to evacuate if you have to know where you can go get water if you need to know where the water systems are geographically and who is pulling in fresh water from the river and who has other kinds of water treatment systems like having maps of that sort may help folks I don't just get the information that they need to worry a little bit less.

Things will be hard if all of the water systems go down, but we are a creative city and a creative state. And again, just continuing to share that it's not a hurricane over a wide area of land. It is the folks directly on the river and people exist outside of the river. And so there.

Places to go to get that support. We are encouraging people to make connections to specifically be thinking about those who really need it most because a large portion of people will be able to go get water outside of the city and it'll be frustrating. It'll be disruptive, but it'll be possible.

But then there are subsects of people who won't be able to do that, who don't have any transportation within their communities. We're especially thinking about like undocumented folks. We're thinking about elderly folks with access and mobility issues. Something I haven't seen brought up anywhere is incarcerated people.

I haven't seen any plans for what we're going to do in prisons. And that hasn't been mentioned anywhere. So really focusing our efforts because it is a specific area, we actually have a greater opportunity to focus our efforts on those who are most vulnerable and have the least access. And I will say that the.

City of New Orleans is also, they have many plans in place and they are working with partners. We are scrapping together all kind of options and we'll just have to test them out.

Pepper Roussel: Thanks to all of you. And Keeping top of mind the economic implications, right? Just because it happens in New Orleans or even that region does not mean it will not hit in some way. There won't be a ripple effect. Pardon the water pun to the rest of the state. Oh, and Cleve, there is no life outside of the river.

I'm just gonna say it. It's not a thing. It's just us. There is in the chat. If we're talking about piping water from upriver, what could this lead to the types of water wars that they've got that they've had going on Alabama, Georgia, Florida for decades?

Clint Wilson: I don't first, I don't think we're talking about.

First of all, we'll be taking water from the Mississippi River and then using it for drinking water, right? So we'd be piping it just parallel to the river to New Orleans. If that makes sense, what I'm saying we're not taking water from the Atchafalaya. We're not taking water from, the Amite river, anything like that.

We'd be taking water from Mississippi and then just piping it to New Orleans to then be treated and distributed. So I don't think that, we're not robbing Peter to pay Paul, if that's even the appropriate analogy here. So I don't see it that way. I think one other thing, there was a question about the port in New Orleans and navigate, I think, trade and agriculture.

Because the Corps of Engineers keeps the navigation channel from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico at 50 foot, 50 feet deep, the traffic from Baton Rouge out to the Gulf of Mexico is not impacted. But more specifically, the agricultural community does get impacted because when you get above Baton Rouge, The navigation depths are only 9 to 12 feet.

And so they rely all on barges to move up and down. And so the low water has much more of an impact on the ability to load the barges with as much grain or whatever product you have. And, or you can't put as many barges in, in, with behind one tug because maybe the navigation channel is not as wide as it needs to be because of the low river.

Directly, the lower Mississippi River from Baton Rouge down isn't, the navigation's not impacted, but it's getting the product and the materials. From the upper part of the watershed to Baton Rouge that is impacted. So it's more, I would say, an indirect impact if that tracks.

Pepper Roussel: It absolutely does. All right, y'all. I think I have hit maybe I haven't. All the questions in the chat. Thank you, Casey. Heartfelt thanks to all of our speakers providing context on this issue. For those of y'all who are community leaders, it will impact you one way or another because you are 10 toes down in the community.

If there, do we have any other questions, any other things that y'all want to know before everybody hops off?

I know we've got a lot of different types of servers, servants here, servant leaders. All right. If anything comes up, please let me know. I want to give another thanks to to, to y'all for being here. Really do appreciate it. And since it's Friday, what's going on this weekend, y'all? Community announcements are up.

Casey Phillips: I'll start with, as I look at Dr. Bell and and Kory's t shirt and their shirts, right? Now I'm reminded of why people check out and focus on sports, because if you think about this too much, your head will explode and you'll freak out. So thank you for the work that you're doing.

It's such an, it's so interesting hearing a disaster preparedness and response organization focusing in on keeping people calm to get through difficult issues. And if part of that is just turning the TV on for three hours and watching the football game to give yourself a breath, then enjoy. the tires in the same scheme this weekend, my friends, because Monday morning to fight the good fight will be here again.

Truly thank you all so much for all the incredible information today and see that Dr. Bester has an announcement.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Good morning, everybody. A great job. And thank you so much for this information. It was just so informative. It just brings light on our failure to adequately invest in our infrastructure.

But my announcement in a reminder is that early voting continues today until six o'clock and tomorrow from 8:30 until six o'clock. Everything that impacts your daily lives is on the ballot. There are also four constitutional amendments and a parish-wide proposition tax renewal. So please go out and vote.

Pepper Roussel: I'm all about it, ATB. I couldn't mute you in the chat, but that's all right. I'm looking for a way. She's always trying to shut me down. I thought that was a tip. I do what I can. Reverend Anderson.

Rev. Alexis Anderson: Good morning. This was an amazing conversation. I think I've heard more on this topic in this hour than I have for years two announcements.

And one of them is that Monday was wrongful conviction day. And we had some amazing speakers Facebook page, which is preachers literacy. But one of those speakers was our brand new appointed Chief of the East Baton Rouge Public Defender's Office. So many people don't realize we now have a permanent chief and her name is Kyla Blanchard Romanoff.

And she comes with a very amazing background, but that is such a critical role in this community. So it is wonderful that that choice has been made. We'll all see how that plays out. And the other thing I wanted to share because it's a story that I don't think most people in this area know about.

If you ever watched America's Got Talent and you saw Mr. Archie Williams, that was one of the exonerees after 36 years of being incarcerated. We had Commissioner Keena Kimball, who was in fact the person who exonerated him. And there's an entire story behind how that exoneration came. That is just amazing.

And so I recommend to people, if you get a chance. Go to our Facebook page, Preachers Literacy and watch the video because I keep saying it's one of the things that, because you can't film what happens in court, but it was amazing and it was a game changer and it's a lot of the reason why we are seeing exonerations is what happened in that process.

So happy weekend, but wanted to share that with everybody.

Pepper Roussel: Thank you. SK has dropped in the chat. We've got so good Saturday coming up tomorrow. Additionally, I wanna bring up that Chef Tracy's on the happy on the flyer. Happy to see it. Do. Thank you Corey so much for all the information.

There's also the East Baton Rouge Parish has it as waste drop off tomorrow. Google for more information and I think that about does it for us.

Oh, Reverend Anderson.

Rev. Alexis Anderson: Our amazing library. The Maker Faire is Saturday. Yay and it's super cool and our library is number one in the country. Keep that in mind. Have a great weekend everybody.

Pepper Roussel: Thank you. Oh, LASM gala tonight. Tickets available. Tina, where's Tina? Ah have a great weekend y'all. See y'all back next year.

Same bat time, same bat channel.


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