City of New Orleans


Public Meeting and Workshop
Thursday, November 12, 1998
7:00 PM   9:00 PM
New Orleans, Louisiana

Responsiveness Summary

1. Will you be taking samples in the river near the intakes as part of the assessment to see what's in the river and where it might be coming from?

There will be no sampling involved in SWAP. However, we will coordinate with the surface water staff of DEQ to determine which water bodies in the state are impaired (this is known as the 303d list). Water bodies on the 303d list are sampled to determine the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of discharges they can handle without impairing the water quality. We will integrate this information with the assessments conducted under SWAP to determine a priority ranking for protection activities.

2. Chemical plant discharges are not on the list of significant potential sources of contamination for surface water. Are you considering adding them to the list? The TRI (Toxic Release Inventory) data for the Mississippi River show a number of carcinogens discharged to the river.

Chemical plant discharges are permitted by DEQ and the river is sampled frequently by both DEQ and the USGS. However, we are incorporating the database of dischargers into SWAP so they will be identified in the assessments. We will also add "chemical/industrial plant discharges" to the list of potential sources of contamination.

3. During dry spells in the U.S., the water level drops considerably in the Mississippi River. As a result, saline water comes up the river from the Gulf of Mexico. That salt water wedge has come very close to New Orleans on occasion. Is salt water intrusion being considered? It doesn't appear on the list for surface water.

We discussed salt water intrusion in the Citizen and Technical Advisory Committee meetings. It was considered a "natural occurrence" and is not a point source that can be identified as a point on a map but it is an important consideration. We reviewed the list for surface water and it does appear in the Lower risk category.

4. Comment from the Corps regarding the salt water wedge:

The movement upstream of a salt water wedge during the low flow of the Mississippi River was a serious problem in 1988. Water was barged to Point-a-la-Hache and intakes below. The upward movement of the wedge was successfully stopped near Alliance (Naomi) by the Corps. An underwater sill was placed across the river at an elevation that stopped the wedge. But permitted the continued passage of deep draft vessels. Since then, the water supply is being piped to those areas that were getting barged water in 1988. Future occurrences will be treated with another underwater sill, in order to protect water supplies above the Alliance/Naomi area. I suggest that you spend your limited time elsewhere; we can control the wedge.

We appreciate your input. Controlling the wedge is beyond the scope of the SWAP project and is not in our area of expertise. We are merely identifying potential threats to public water supplies. We are glad to hear that your organization is on top of the problem and doing what you can to control it. You are actually implementing protection activities for the water supplies threatened by salt water intrusion.

5. If a bridge crosses over surface water body it provides a conduit for contaminants to enter the water body form vehicular traffic, accidental spills, and stormwater drainage. Bridges should be listed as an item on the potential source of contamination list for surface water.

We reviewed the list for surface water and "Bridges & Bridge Abutments" are listed under the Higher Risk category.

6. Can pipelines be differentiated as to what product they are carrying (such as gas, crude, chemicals) and perhaps be ranked differently depending on their contents?

Since no database exists for pipelines we will not be able to differentiate every pipeline under the time restrictions. However, where we can identify what product a pipeline is carrying it will be listed as such in the inventory and ranked accordingly. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has maps in their files showing pipeline crossings for the Mississippi. We are currently entering these locations into our computer and building our own database for the Mississippi River, and crude and gas are differentiated. We do not have the resources to do this statewide. However, Louisiana State University (LSU) is working on the development of a statewide pipeline database. We can incorporate this database into SWAP when it is available but we do not know when it will be completed.

7. Are you looking at oil field waste pits?

Yes, we will include any oil field waste pits identified within delineated areas. We have obtained an oil and gas well database from DNR, which can be helpful in determining areas where pits might be located. However, no database of pit locations exists.

8. When the assessment is conducted for the Mississippi River, will you pay particular attention to the batture? There is a lot of industrial development, such as barge reclamation facilities, in the batture area in Jefferson Parish. These facilities likely store or use some of the contaminants of concern.

Yes. The batture area is by definition the area between the river's edge and the levee so this would be a considered "critical" area.

9. Will ship building operations be inventoried? There are a number of ship-building operations along the Mississippi River as well as other rivers in the state. They are not on the current list for surface water and they likely use some of the contaminants of concern, and likely have runoff entering the rivers.

These are likely permitted facilities for discharges, but as you pointed out there are materials of concern present and they should be on the list. We will add, "ship building operations" to the list for surface water.

10. The TRI data for the State of Mississippi indicate high levels of permitted nitrate discharges from fertilizer plants into the Mississippi River. What types of fish analyses are being done to determine the bioaccumulation of pesticides and heavy metals in the Mississippi River as an indicator of what might be the bioaccumulation in humans?

USGS response: Currently, we're not studying the main stem of the Mississippi River. We're working on other rivers in south Louisiana because they are in smaller basins and it's easier to correlate the land use to water quality. The current study includes filets, whole fish, and livers. Livers are important because they accumulate heavy metals. Filets are important because heavy metals can also accumulate in the muscle tissue. The whole fish samples are being analyzed for organic compounds. Species sampled include Brim, some Large Mouth Bass, and Carp. The study will soon include Catfish, and small bottom dwelling fish. This will give a better idea of bioaccumulation in species that come into contact with bed sediments. So far there have not been any advisories for fish on the Mississippi River.

DEQ response: We have conducted a large fish tissue analysis on the Mississippi River that included over 150 fish from Lake Providence down to Point-a-la-Hache. We looked for all the priority compounds and after 2 years of sampling we got continuous non-detects for the majority of these compounds. We then narrowed the study to a core of long-term pesticides and PCBs. The highest Mercury concentration in the tissue was only 0.2, which is very low. The fish tissue study indicates that the river is healthy. A large population of diverse species present in the river also supports this conclusion. Every representative species we would expect to find in the river is there. We also conducted biotoxicity testing on the river for a full year in conjunction with EPA. This included taking samples of ambient river water, water fleas, and larval fishes and testing them for viability and reproductive capacity. The Mississippi River specimens tested very favorable, even compared to controlled lab samples. We are confident that the pollution control mechanisms are there and we need to continue to work to enhance them.

11. Eventually, will we be able to see a list of the chemicals that are in the river on a monthly basis?

DHH response: Consumers Confidence reports will provide all parameters sampled for and any detections found on an annual basis. The first report is due out in October of 1999. The report will include finished water sample results from the previous calendar year.

12. Are any records on the internet?

DHH response: Currently, no sampling data is available on the web. However, the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) can be accessed through the EPA web site. SDWIS lists all public drinking water systems in the U.S. and any violations incurred by those systems over the last 10 years. Sampling data will be available when the consumer confidence reports are published.

13. Does DHH (Dept. of Health and Hospitals) do any sampling?

DHH response: Yes, DHH does all the sampling on public water systems. The vast majority of samples are collected by DHH personnel and analyses are run on these samples in a DHH lab. The samples collected are finished water samples (after treatment), since DHH regulates drinking water. Source water quality is regulated by DEQ.

14. Does DHH ever take any samples at the tap or only the treatment plant?

DHH response: Some tap samples are collected for the Lead and Copper Rule. The water must be tested for lead and copper after passing through the plumbing in individual homes in order to determine if it is corrosive enough to leach lead or copper from the pipes. Bacteriological samples are also collected at the tap because problems in the distribution system (between the treatment plant and the tap) are a common cause of bacterial contamination.

15. Have there been any problems with lead and copper in the New Orleans area?

DHH response: No. Many older New Orleans homes have lead or copper pipes. Jefferson has much fewer since the development there is more recent. However, the lead and copper levels for both Orleans and Jefferson have been very low. The testing was done on taps considered to be the most vulnerable, i.e., old homes with lead or copper plumbing.

16. This entire effort tends to address whether or not a water system can meet standards. Do you see a move to consolidate small systems?

DHH response: Yes. The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 require that the states must make a determination of the capacity of each individual water system, i.e., the financial, managerial, and technical means to produce water that meets the standards. The process will be long term but with that DHH will have the authority to prevent new systems from coming online if they cannot demonstrate viability, and can pressure systems not meeting standards to consolidate. The overall trend is to consolidate and reduce the number of small systems. Most of the violations occur in small systems. Operation of a water system has become more difficult in recent years as tougher standards have been instituted and we have seen a drop in the number of public water systems in the state over the last 5 years as a result. Eighty-five to ninety percent of the public water supply systems in the state serve less than 100 people.

17. Suggestion: I suggest that consideration be given to the installation and operation of reliable, sensitive, on-line hydrocarbon monitors at drinking water inlets located along rivers and other water bodies. This would allow timely action to be taken in order to avoid contamination of water treatment facilities and drinking water supplies.

Monitoring is beyond the scope of SWAP but we will pass this suggestion on to our Water Quality Management Division staff responsible for monitoring programs. 

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