City of LC Water System receives state’s first BIL loan to improve water quality

The Louisiana Department of Health’s Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund Program has awarded its first Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Emerging Contaminant Loan to the city of Lake Charles Water System, enabling that system to improve the quality of its drinking water.

The city of Lake Charles Water System received a $2.3 million forgivable loan to reduce levels of iron and manganese in the local drinking water. The city system currently serves more than 35,000 water customers.

Engineers plan to replace the system’s pressure filter and install a potassium permanganate feed system at the Center East Water Treatment Plant, as well as rehabilitate the pressure filter at the Chennault Water Treatment Plant.

“This is a unique opportunity to prioritize funding to local communities that are on the frontlines dealing with emerging contaminants, and this funding must be distributed to communities entirely as forgivable loans,” DWRLF Program Manager Joel McKenzie said.

The federal funding can be used to target the removal of contaminants listed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Contaminant Candidate Lists (CCL) 1-5. Manganese contamination is problematic in Louisiana, and it poses a health risk when levels are too high. Thus, the Louisiana Department of Health has elected to use the funding to target projects that remove manganese from drinking water.

The BIL provides $5 billion nationally through various State Revolving Funds (SRFs). Louisiana has access to about $11 million each year for the law’s five-year period. The state’s DWRLF program closed on the $2.3 million BIL loan with the city of Lake Charles on Sept. 14.

This funding represents the second DWRLF loan awarded to the city of Lake Charles this year. The state awarded the water system a $20 million loan in May 2023 to improve its facilities. That funding, which has a mandated principal forgiveness of 49% of the value with the remaining 51% provided as a low-interest loan at 2.45%, is being used to construct a new 6 million gallon-per-day ground treatment facility that will include provisions for future expansion to 10 million gallons per day.

The new facility is the seventh ground treatment facility in the city’s system.

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