City of Oakdale to invest $3.8 million into improving drinking water
ALLEN PARISH - An Allen Parish city in south Louisiana is taking steps to make its drinking water safer.
The City of Oakdale announced Friday that it has been awarded a $3.8 million loan through the Louisiana Office of Public Health’s Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund (DWRLF) program to make improvements to its local water system, thereby ensuring quality drinking water for its customers.
The city is using the funds to rehabilitate its four existing water wells, including one that has been unused for more than 10 years, replace two existing ground storage tanks with a larger tank, rehabilitate three other storage tanks, and replace the city’s existing water meters with new automated radio-read meters.
City Mayor Gene Paul said, “We decided a couple years ago to seek out funding for these needed improvements, but unfortunately weather, hurricanes and the Coronavirus delayed our efforts along the way. We’re excited that we are finally underway with these improvements.”
The City of Oakdale and the Louisiana Department of Health closed on the DWRLF loan on March 15, according to DWRLF Program Manager Joel McKenzie. He noted that the City of Oakdale is eligible for a 20-percent loan forgiveness and low-interest rate on paying back the remaining 80 percent of the loan.
"The Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund has provided an affordable way for the City of Oakdale to improve their local drinking water infrastructure," McKenzie said. “We are excited to be a part of this project.”
City of Oakdale Public Works Director Toi Ardoin said city workers have already started replacing the system’s existing water meters with new automated meters. He added that a full replacement of all meters should be completed over the next three months.
He went on to explain that work will soon begin on replacing two of the system’s small ground water tanks with one large storage tank that can hold three-times the water that the two smaller tanks combined now hold.
“This upgrade will greatly increase our water storage capacity and allow us to keep up with the demand,” Ardoin said. “Also, helping us meet the demand will be improvements at the three existing water wells, as well as bringing a fourth water well and storage tank system back online. That facility has been out for more than 10 years. Adding this well and tank system back into our system will help us produce more water and maintain good water pressure during high demand times.”
Mayor Paul noted that the city’s water system currently serves 2,345 water customers, which include the Oakdale Community Hospital, the Oakdale Federal Correctional Complex, and the Roy O. Martin lumber plant.
“We have had difficulties in the past meeting the water demand of our customers during weather events,” Paul said, noting that freezing weather conditions in February caused reduced water capacity for customers, and generating much havoc for the hospital and prison and larger water customers in maintaining services.
“It is vitally important that our system be able to meet the demands of all residences and businesses to ensure a safe, quality lifestyle in our community,” he said.
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. 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.
"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 LDH Chief Engineer Amanda Ames.
She noted that as systems pay 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.
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