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Mississippi River Oil Spill Followed by Run on Bottled Water in NOLA

Jul 25, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Despite assurances that New Orleans' water is safe to drink following Wednesday's Mississippi River oil spill, many residents aren't taking any chances and have opted to buy bottled water while the clean-up continues.   Meanwhile, the US Coast Guard, with assistance from the National Transportation Safety Board has begun a formal investigation of the incident.

Following the spill, New Orleans officials said that water for neighborhoods on the east bank of the Mississippi River was safe to drinks, as intakes for those areas were upstream from the oil slick.   After shutting down intakes downriver that serve the city's Algiers area, officials announced that they were open again, and that water drawn from the oil-polluted river was being subjected to an extra cleaning step to rid it of contaminants.   The city has insisted that water going through that process has tested free of toxins and other contaminants.  

Despite such assurances, Algiers residents emptied store shelves of bottled water Thursday, while some restaurants closed or cut back menus.  One resident told The Times-Picayune that Mayor Ray Nagin's recent statements that Algiers residents use city water in "moderation" had made some skeptical of claims that the supply is safe.  

"The mayor's saying, 'Drink the water in moderation,' so does that mean I'm going to get moderately sick?" said Ed Moise, an Algiers restaurant owner. "Or are my guests going to get moderately sick?"

The Coast Guard has begun a formal investigation of the Mississippi River oil spill, even as oil from the barge involved continues to seep into the river.  The Coast Guard has already confirmed that the tug boat pushing the barge did not have an adequately licensed pilot.  

Paul Book, vice president of operations with barge owner American Commercial Lines Inc. of Jeffersonville, Ind., told The Times-Picayune that he hopes to be able to submit a salvage plan to the Coast Guard sometime today, following an assessment by divers.

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