NEW ORLEANS (AP) — (10/23/19) The Environmental Protection Agency has invited New Orleans to apply for up to $111 million in loans to help restore its aging sewer system.
The money could help the city’s Sewerage and Water Board meet a 2025 federal court deadline for completing that restoration, the New Orleans agency said in a news release Tuesday.
The EPA got letters of interest from 51 public and private agencies, and 38 were chosen to apply for $6 billion in loans to help finance about double that amount in water infrastructure investments, the federal agency said in its own news release.
The New Orleans agency and EPA will be working on the arrangement, with the aim of getting the first payment in mid-2020.
“We’re confident the negotiations with EPA will go smoothly, and we’re looking forward to the partnership this process will forge for the future,” chief financial officer Yvette Downs said.
New Orleans’ sewer and sewage treatment system has been under a federal court consent decree with EPA since 1998 for violating the Clean Water Act for “sanitary sewer overflow violations” that sent untreated sewage into Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River and other waterways. Deadlines were extended three times after Hurricane Katrina flooded 80% of the city in 2005.
The Sewerage and Water Board said it has completed work in six of nine affected areas, all on New Orleans’ east bank.
It said the loan will speed up work on the others and gives the agency the flexibility to move future money toward other critical projects.
The loans are being given under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014.