Pipeline to bail out St. Charles water system

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 22, 2006


Managing Editor

HAHNVILLE — A badly-needed upgrade to the St. Charles Parish waterworks system is due to launch this summer, starting with the installation of a connecting pipeline beneath the Mississippi River.

At Monday’s meeting of the St. Charles Parish Council, Waterworks Director Robert Brou saw approved a new water usage rate schedule, which will allow for the sale of revenue bonds to finance the system upgrade.

&#8220I’m very glad to see this,” Brou said.

Currently, water users in St. Charles Parish pay $2.20 per 1,000 gallons, plus a $4 administrative fee. The new schedule would adjust to $4 for users of 6-10,000 gallons and $4.30 for more than 10,000 gallons. Under the new plan, Brou said, 60 percent of the parish’s water customers would have no increase.

Brou told the council the total upgrade would include a new East Bank treatment plant, improvements to the West Bank facility and a connecting pipeline between the two.

On the West Bank, a $3 million filter bank installation will upgrade capacity from 9 million to 12 million gallons, which is aimed to keep pace with anticipated population growth, especially with the opening of Ashton Estates in Luling, which will add 2,000 homesites to the area.

On the East Bank, a $12.5 million water treatment plant is optimistically hoped to begin construction in November 2006, with completion in May 2008. The present facility is overwhelmed with water usage, which is straining the resources.

Design capacity for the present East Bank plant is 7 million gallons, and current usage averages 5 to 5.5 million gallons per day. &#8220I’m not sure if we will make it through this summer,” Brou said.

Finally, an east-west bank pipeline will provide a backup to supplement effective capacity for the East Bank, as summer comes on. Brou said he is trying to get that in place by July, but necessary permits are slowing progress.

Brou said the time is right to do this project, with the parish able to get good rates on the revenue bonds. He is concerned about the ability of the parish to attract contractors, as so many qualified contractors are currently involved in the rebuilding of New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina.

Voting in favor of the program were Council Members Brian Fabre, Derryl Walls, April Black, Dickie Duhe, Lance Marino and Clayton Faucheux. Voting against was G. &#8220Ram” Ramchandran and absent were Barry Minnich and Desmond Hilaire.

Former Parish President Chris Tregre urged the council to postpone action for a few years, until construction costs go down. Brou said he had never heard of construction costs going down.

Brou said he heard no real objections to the plan from major water users among business and industry. &#8220I had a lukewarm reaction. Nobody is excited about it, but the consensus is it needed to be done.”