The Department of Health Office of Public Health has awarded a $3.7 million loan to the City of Westlake to help the community improve its drinking water. The loan was finalized last Thursday, March 27.

"Westlake can now improve its water system which will result in improved drinking water for the community," said LDH Secretary David Hood. "The money will be used to drill a new water well, construct a new water treatment facility and to improve the distribution system, including installation of water meters throughout the service area," he added.

The funds are provided by the OPH’s Water Revolving Loan Fund Program. This fund was established by Congress in 1996 as part of the Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Louisiana and other states are eligible to receive federal grants annually from EPA as long as the states provide the necessary matching funds of 20 percent on an annual basis. Upon approval of the loans, communities borrow from the fund. The principal and interest that are paid back to the fund allow more money to become available for other communities that have drinking water problems. These loans are approved on a priority system. Projects that address the most serious risk to human health and projects to ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act are given highest priority.

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

"The purpose of the fund is to provide states with a financial mechanism to make loans to drinking water systems for infrastructure improvements. These improvements assist the systems in complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act and protect public health," said T. J. Ray, program manager for the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund.

Madeline McAndrew, OPH assistant secretary, said it is imperative that all Louisiana residents have access to safe drinking water.

"This program helps ensure that communities have a source of dependable and affordable funding so that their water treatment facilities may benefit from the latest and most modern technology," McAndrew said.

"Our Council wants to provide the citizens of Westlake with the best water we can, and this loan will allow us to do that," said Westlake Mayor Dudley Dixon. "We are very grateful to receive such a substantial amount of funding, and appreciate that the Department of Health can assist through their Drinking Water Revolving Loan Program."

Without this source of funding, it would be difficult for us to take on a project of such magnitude. We are happy we will be able to provide a higher quality of water and to better serve our customers."

For more information about the program, please contact T. J. Ray at the Office of Public Health (225) 765-5075.