Temple-Inland has admitted so-called "black liquor" from its Bogalusa mill spilled into the Pearl River on Aug. 13, sapping the river's water of oxygen and killing massive numbers of fish.
Seafood testing set to begin
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and LDWF will begin testing seafood from areas that could have been or will be impacted by the "black liquor" formed after the Temple-Island discharge.
LDWF began pulling live samples of crab, shrimp and finfish following a protocol similar to the one used during last year's BP oil spill, and will provide those samples to DHH to be tested. LDWF fisheries biologists are sampling at multiple locations, including the upper, middle and lower Pearl River, two control sites, sites in the Rigolets at the mouth of the Pearl River and in Mud Lake.
Because of the nature of potential contaminants from the mill, DHH will conduct more-complex testing that requires specialized equipment and specially trained personnel. Results are expected soon.
DHH, which oversees safety of the state's oyster areas, has been monitoring Oyster Areas 1, 2 and 3, which could get water from the Pearl River for signs of the contamination.
Samples already pulled routinely from those areas will be used to conduct baseline testing so that, if the discharge material gets to the area, DHH will be able to do additional testing to ensure the safety of the oysters in those areas.
Water quality back to normal in some areas
On a positive note, samples throughout the Pearl River from the discharge point to below Pools Bluff show the water quality is back to normal. These are areas that are above the plume.
Information from a DEQ over-flight last week showed a dramatic improvement in water quality.
Preliminary in-depth water quality samples taken on Aug. 14 at the discharge point returned from the lab last Friday and show there were no chemicals of concern released from the Inland-Temple Mill outfall.
Dozens of daily samples have been taken in the Pearl River since Aug. 13. Recent assessments show water quality levels in Pearl River, from Washington Parish to the end of the river, are not lethal to fish.
Private water wells tested
The LDHH, Department of Environmental Quality and the LDWF also are working with local officials in Washington and St. Tammany parishes to conduct the new round of precautionary testing of a sample of private water wells along the Pearl River.
Initial testing of drinking water from public water systems by DHH and of the river water impacted by the discharge by DEQ showed non-detect levels of volatile organic contaminants, as well as acceptable levels for other types of potential contaminants.
For private well sampling, DHH is working with local officials and engineers in Washington and St. Tammany parishes to identify a sample of 10 registered private water wells in each parish to test. Those samples were being collected be analyzed at DHH's lab in Metairie, which also analyzed the public water system samples taken earlier this week.
More information about private water well safety and testing can be found at http://www.privatewaterandsewage.dhh.la.gov/.
Further Information Available
People with questions about the incident can call the DEQ hotline number is 225.342.1234 or 888.763.5424. The DEQ Regional Office number is 504.736.7701.
The LDWF 24-hour hotline for reporting further fish kill impacts is 800.442.2511.
For health questions people can call the Louisiana Poison Center, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 800.222.1222.