BATON ROUGE—More drinking water systems throughout Louisiana will soon be able to afford needed upgrades and repairs thanks to an expansion of the Department of Health and Hospital’s Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund Program.

The Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund Program provides loans to water systems to make needed improvements. As the systems pay back the loans, the principal and interest are used to make more money available for other communities that have drinking water improvement needs.

“This expansion will allow many drinking water systems in our state to make decades worth of improvements almost simultaneously, without creating any additional burden or risk for the state,” said LDH Secretary Alan Levine. “We want to give our residents the utmost confidence in their water systems by allowing access to the latest technology, safety measures and other upgrades to create a modern and reliable system.”

This expansion more than doubles the amount LDH receives from the Environmental Protection Agency to provide loans for drinking water systems, allowing for more systems to make improvements sooner. Applications are currently being accepted.

The expansion of $27.6 million will add half of the funds (or $13.8 million) to the revolving loan fund pool. The other half of the funding will be used to subsidize 30 percent of the principal, up to $1 million per applicant, of loans awarded. Projects that may be funded with these dollars could include new water wall installation, or the replacement or addition of water distribution lines, water storage tanks or water meters. 

As an additional incentive to encourage water systems statewide to apply and prepare to start their projects, the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund has reduced the interest rate applied to its loans to 3.45 percent from 3.95 percent.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stipulates that the money must be under contract for construction by February 17, 2010.  An additional requirement of the stimulus money is 20 percent of the funds, or $5.5 million, must be used for projects or portions of projects for energy efficiency, water efficiency, “green” infrastructure or environmentally innovative projects.  These projects may include energy efficient retrofits and upgrades to pumps and treatment processes, leak detection equipment, the production of clean power for treatment systems on site (wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, etc.), automated water meter reading systems, and other “green” equipment or appliances.

As with traditional Drinking Water system loans, loan funds derived from the stimulus package will only be disbursed to projects that are “shovel ready,” that have all the technical, managerial and financial plans to begin construction.  The EPA also specifies that preference must be given to “green” projects.

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).  It is administered in Louisiana by the LDH-Office of Public Health.

Loans made through this program are low-interest and have a maximum 20-year repayment period.  All water systems are eligible to apply for loans: public or privately owned community systems, or non-profit, non-community systems.

Applications can be downloaded at http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov/offices/page.asp?id=203&detail=7688.  Please submit applications to the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund Program, LDH-OPH, P.O. Box 4489, Baton Rouge, La., 70821.  For more information, call (225) 342-8355.

For more information, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov/offices/?ID=203.

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visithttp://www.dhh.louisiana.gov.