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Calcasieu water district gets $8.5 million loan from state

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Posted at 11:42 AM, Feb 06, 2020

Calcasieu Parish officials recently closed on an $8.5 million loan from the Louisiana Office of Public Health’s Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund to improve and expand a water system in a rural area east of Lake Charles.

The funding will pay for the expansion of the Waterworks District 5 Mallard Junction Treatment Plant on Deshotel Lane, which services the southeast quadrant of Calcasieu Parish. This area includes Police Jury Districts 3 and 8. The loan is low interest and has a maximum 20-year repayment period.

Planned improvements to the water system include a new raw water well, a new horizontal pressure filter, new altitude valves for the elevated storage tanks, a new chemical feed system and building, a new high service pump station and control building, and a new storage and maintenance building.

“Our current water production facility for that area is maxed out now, but this expansion will almost double our capacity, allowing us to solidify the district’s water needs for that area for the next 20 years,” said Allen Wainwright, director of the Public Works Department for Calcasieu Parish.

Wainwright described the area as having industrial and commercial expansions on the eastern edge of the city limits of Lake Charles and sprawling residential developments in the rural areas farther out.

“We’re currently completing Phase I of the project, which includes installation of water lines that allow us to finish looping the system. This is needed before construction on the new facilities can begin,” Wainwright said.

He said bids for construction were recently received, and he expects work to begin in about six months. Wainwright anticipates completion of the project to take 18 months to 2 years.

“The Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund has provided an affordable way for the residents of this water system to improve their local drinking water infrastructure,” said LDH State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry, who noted that state and parish officials closed the $8.5 million loan on Dec. 31, 2019.

“Safe drinking water is fundamental to community health, and this program helps communities throughout Louisiana keep their water as safe as possible without placing an undue burden in the form of expensive financing,” Guidry added.

Congress established state Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund programs in 1996 as part of the amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. The program is jointly funded by an annual grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (80 percent) and the individual participating states (20 percent). In Louisiana, it is administered by LDH’s Office of Public Health.

Joel McKenzie, program manager for Louisiana’s DWRLF program, said the low-interest loans are available to public and privately-owned, community and non-profit, non-community water systems. Once a loan is approved, water systems can use the funds to make their improvements.

“As the systems pay back the loans, the principal and interest are used to make more money available for other communities that have drinking water needs. All loan projects are approved based upon a priority ranking system,” McKenzie said.