BLANCHARD, La. – Blanchard has been awarded $3,693,000 by the Louisiana Department of Health’s Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund (DWRLF) Program to merge with the struggling Bel-Di-Gil Water System to restore it to compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act requirements and to provide its customers with safe and reliable drinking water.
Blanchard will absorb the Bel-Di-Gil System into its water system by installing more than 76,000 linear feet of pipeline to connect the town’s main lines to the smaller system’s water treatment plants in the villages of Belcher and Gilliam. In addition, the Blanchard system is installing new automated water meters that can be read with walk-by or drive-by devices, and it is enlarging existing pipelines to improve capacity and water pressure for customers.
The funding for the improvements is provided through the DWRLF’s newly created Consolidation Initiative Program, which provides loans that are 100% forgiven for approved consolidation projects that eliminate existing public water systems that pose a threat to public health. The Louisiana Department of Health approved the loan for the town on Dec. 1. It will be paid out in two phases.
Phase 1 calls for $2.3 million to be spent on the construction of main lines connecting to the smaller system in Belcher. That project is scheduled to begin this month and finish by September.
Phase 2 will allocate the remaining $1.39 million to constructing main lines to the plant in Gilliam, with that project beginning by late summer and being completed by the end of December.
“The Bel-Di-Gil Water System hasn’t been able to maintain a fully compliant operation for nearly 29 years, and because of that, it had begun to amass fines and find itself increasingly facing more and more challenges. When we became aware of the state’s Consolidated Initiative Program that would allow us to receive the necessary funding with 100% forgiveness, we stepped up to improve water service for our neighbors,” Mayor Jim Galambos said.
Galambos said the Caddo Parish Commission pitched in an additional $1 million to the project to upsize the pipelines connecting the systems. He said 8-inch pipes will be enlarged to 12 inches, and 12-inch pipes will be replaced with 16-inch pipes.
“Much thanks to Caddo Parish Commissioner Todd Hopkins and State Sen. Greg Tarver for their leadership in helping us secure the support and funding to improve the quality of water service for much of the northwest region of our parish,” Galambos said.
He noted that Blanchard's water wystem manages a $20 million water plant system that has the capacity to provide 5 million gallons of quality drinking water to customers each day. The current demand on the system is less than 50%, with only 2.2 million gallons per day consumed each day, Galambos said.
“Adding the 350 or so customers now in the Bel-Di-Gil system will not affect our capacity, and the good news is that these customers all reside downhill from our system, so we do not have to install pumping stations to deliver water, but we can effectively serve customers through gravity-flow connections,” Galambos said.
Galambos said Blanchard also took over the East Cove Water System last year, and it sells its water service to small systems in Mooringsport, Pine Hill and Lakeview, which borders up to Shreveport. He said the water system is making plans to expand its bulk water service to residents in Oil City next year.
DWRLF Project Manager Joel McKenzie said the loan program utilized by the town is available to any compliant water system that is willing and capable of consolidating a nearby system that is not in compliance with drinking water standards. He noted that multiple community systems across the state have already applied.
“All loan projects are approved based upon a priority ranking system. 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,” McKenzie said.
“The Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund is providing an affordable way for water systems to improve their local drinking water infrastructure," said LDH State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry. "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.”