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Mamou awarded $5 million loan to improve drinking water

(AP)
Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 6:38 PM CDT
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The following was released by the Louisiana Department of Health:

BATON ROUGE, La. - The Town of Mamou has been awarded a $5 million loan through the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund (DWRLF) program, a division of the Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Public Health, to make improvements to its water system, ensuring quality drinking water for local customers.

The town is using the funds to install two new ground water wells, a new water treatment facility with filters and softeners, a new ground storage tank, new water meters with automated meter reading system and more than 3,000 linear feet of new pipeline.

“We’re long overdue in correcting the town’s water problems. This funding will allow us to improve the quality of water for our residents and save costs associated with our sewer water plant,” Mayor Ricky Fontenot said.

Mayor Fontenot noted that the system’s 1,800 water customers currently pay a flat rate of $22 per month. Under the improved metered system, customers will pay according to their water usage. He said system managers have not yet determined the usage rate for residential and business customers.

“We want to offer the most affordable rate that also allows us to pay the bills and plan for maintenance and growth,” he said.

David Hidalgo, project engineer with Aucoin and Associates, Inc., said the new facilities are being constructed on a seven-acre tract of property near the ballpark that the town purchased last year.

The two new water wells will pump 800 gallons per minute each and replace the three older wells near that site; the new ground storage tank will hold 125,000 gallons of water and will provide additional storage capacity for the system, supplementing an existing 300,000-gallon tank. The location will also include a newly constructed water treatment facility that will have softeners and filters to improve the quality of the drinking water.

“The current wells are tapped into the Evangeline Aquifer, which provides water that doesn’t react well with chlorine treatments. The new wells will access water in the Chicot Aquifer, which will produce a better, quality water for our system,” Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo said the town will keep an existing water well on Hackberry Avenue for emergency backup. A 150-kilowatt natural gas generator is also being installed at the new location to power the pumps and treatment facility in the event of an electrical outage.

The Town of Mamou and the Louisiana Department of Health closed on the DWRLF loan on May 27, according to DWRLF Program Manager Joel McKenzie. He noted that the Town of Mamou qualifies for $200,000 to be forgiven as part of the state’s Disadvantaged Systems Initiative that promotes projects that directly address Administrative Orders. The remaining amount of the loan will be subject to low interest rates.

McKenzie also said portions of the project have been deemed to be compliant with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Project Initiative, as the improvements will result in a significant increase in water system efficiency.

“The Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund has provided an affordable way for the Town of Mamou to improve their local drinking water infrastructure,” McKenzie said. “We are excited to be a part of this project.”

Mayor Fontenot said drilling for the new wells and construction on the new treatment facility has begun. At the same time, the automated meters are being installed at customer’s homes and businesses.

“We anticipate laying the new pipelines later this summer and completing all the projects by the end of the year,” he said.

“This will be good for our citizens,” Mayor Fontenot said. “This is something we have tried to do for 20-something years now, and it’s finally coming to pass. We’re excited about the quality water we will be able to deliver and the cost savings we believe the automated meter system will help to bring.”

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.

“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,” said Louisiana Department of Health Chief Engineer Amanda Ames.

Ames said loans made through this program are low interest and have up to a 30-year repayment period. Both public and privately-owned community and nonprofit, non-community water systems are eligible to apply for loans. As systems pack back the loans, the principal and interest are used to make more money available for other communities that have drinking water needs.

Ames said all loan projects are approved based upon a priority ranking system. Among other factors, projects that address the most serious risks to human health and those that ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act are given the highest priority.

Copyright 2021 Louisiana Department of Health. All rights reserved.