- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana’s Office of Public Health is lending Jefferson Parish $3.5 million to replace water mains with bigger ones and make other improvements to the water system near Waggaman.

Fire hydrants, valves, fittings, meters and service lines also will be replaced.

The changes will boost water pressure, keep the system in compliance with state and federal regulations, and provide additional capacity, according to a news release Wednesday from the Department of Health and Hospitals.

The low-interest loan comes from a federal program passed in 1996. The Environmental Protection Agency provides an annual grant and the state puts in 20 percent of each year’s total.

A separate grant in fiscal 2012 lets the state forgive up to $1.1 million of each loan. The news release said that will cover $1 million of the loan to the Jefferson Parish Water Department.

As the systems pay back the loans, the principal and interest are used for loans to other communities.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to take advantage of this low interest loan and principal forgiveness,” said Jefferson Parish President John Young. “It will allow us to make necessary improvements to our water system, while saving our taxpayers over a million dollars.”

Congress established State Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund Programs in 1996 as part of the amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Loans made through the program are low interest and have a maximum 20-year repayment period. Both public and privately-owned community and nonprofit, non-community water systems are eligible to apply for loans.

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