Department of Health awards $13 million loan to St. Bernard Parish Waterworks for water system improvements

The Department of Health has awarded a $13 million loan to St. Bernard Waterworks. The loan is through the State’s Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund, and will help the water system improve its drinking water quality.

Beth Scalco, LDH assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health, said it’s imperative that all Louisiana residents have access to safe drinking water.

“This drinking water loan program gives local communities a source of dependable and affordable financing to bring their water treatment facilities up to the latest and most modern technology that keeps their residents safe and healthy,” said Scalco.

The loan was closed last week and will be used for the following projects:

Replacement of aging and deteriorating cast iron water lines in the distribution system.
Installation of a 20-inch diameter PVC waterline extension along Hwy. 46 in St. Bernard to address low pressure and improve fire protection.
Adding fire hydrants, valves, service lines, meters and fittings along the length of the new and replaced water lines.

A second loan is anticipated following the construction and expenditure of the first loan that will continue the replacement of aging cast iron water lines with new PVC pipe. The repairs and new lines are necessary to bring the system into compliance with the Louisiana Sanitary Code. Additionally, this project meets EPA’s ‘Green Project Reserve’ requirements and is considered 100 percent green due to the project’s anticipated water conservation improvements.

“Our water system infrastructure is aging and failing in some places. The loan will allow us to make much-need improvements throughout the system that will improve the overall water quality and improve fire protection for the residents of our Parish,” said Parish President Guy McInnis.

Congress established State Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund Programs in 1996 as part of 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). It is administered by LDH’s Office of Public Health. The FY 2016 Drinking Water Capitalization Grant allowed for additional subsidy in the form of principal forgiveness of up to 20 percent of the loan principal, with a cap of $500,000 of principal forgiveness per project.

Loans made through this program are low interest and have a maximum 20-year repayment period. Both public and privately-owned community and nonprofit, non-community water systems are eligible to apply for loans.

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. 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.

“The purpose of the fund is to provide states with a financial mechanism to make below market rate loans to drinking water systems for infrastructure improvements. These improvements assist the systems in complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act and protecting public health,” said Jennifer Wilson, program manager for the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund.

For more information about the program, contact Jennifer Wilson at LDH’s Office of Public Health, 225-342-7499.

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents. To learn more about LDH, visit www.ldh.la.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH’s Twitter account, Facebook and blog.