Nobody is quite sure what is causing salt water intrusion to move up the Mississippi River. There has always been some movement of salt water from the Gulf of Mexico into the river, but it seems to be creeping farther inland each year … especially this year due to drought in much of the Midwest.
However, whether it’s due to prolonged drought, climate change or rising sea levels, one thing is certain. It is having a profound effect on the people who live in the delta along the Mississippi River below New Orleans. Earlier this year, salt water had already advanced nearly 70 miles up the river. As one news report explained, salt water in the Gulf of Mexico is denser than the fresh water flowing in the Mississippi. Therefore, during low river flow, salt water from the Gulf moves upstream along the bottom of the river underneath the less dense fresh water. Fortunately, Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers, along with other groups and organizations, have been able to help.
“This was not your typical Baptist disaster relief project,” said Stan Statham, director for Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief. “It mainly involved distribution of water to communities located along the river that have suffered from the intrusion of salt water into their water supplies. We had previously positioned water supplies in and around New Orleans, but the salinity never got as far as previously expected.
“Most of the cities affected have the capability of purifying the water that they draw from the river, but they’re not able to remove enough salinity to make it suitable for drinking. However, thanks to groups like Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief, Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief and Texas Baptist Men, we distributed a total of 387,600 bottles of water as part of our response,” he adds, noting that most of the water came from donations from churches, individuals, associations and organizations like Send Relief.
Tim Choplin, from Independence Missouri, and Ron Brookshire, from Harrisburg, Missouri, were just two of the MODR volunteers from Missouri who helped distribute water to the churches in affected cities and towns. While Brookshire spent most of his time picking up water from the warehouses and moving it to various locations via a semi-truck with a 53-foot trailer, Choplin used a straight truck with a lift gate to shuttle pallets of water to the communities that were inaccessible with a semi.
“I actually went down on October 3 and ended up staying for three weeks because the person who was supposed to replace me wasn’t able to make it,” Choplin said. “But it was all good and I was glad we were able to help out.”
“We were fortunate in being able to stay at the Providence Guest House, which is right across the street from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,” Brookshire added. “From there, we traveled as far south as Port Sulfur and Buras.”
“The Missouri Baptists certainly played an integral role in providing relief to the area,” Statham added. “They had two trucks down here and even positioned a tanker full of water at the Baptist Seminary as a backup in case we needed it. Fortunately, we’re finally in a position where we aren’t going to need it or any additional help from volunteers.”