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|Finances in order for Sparta job|
Nearly nine years after the Sparta Aquifer Reuse project first surfaced, the city of West Monroe and West Ouachita Sewer District No. 5 have the roughly $20 million needed to complete the project.
Last week the State Bond Commission approved a $4.75 million bond sale, which will generate the final piece of the financial puzzle for West Monroe and the sewer district to complete the reuse project. Mayor Dave Norris is optimistic the city's treatment system, which will remove Graphic Packaging from the Sparta Aquifer, could be up and running by next summer.
The reuse project will allow Graphic Packaging to use treated wastewater in its production process. Wastewater will be treated at West Monroe's treatment plant, which will undergo millions of dollars in work to handle the work. Wastewater will be derived from the city and West Ouachita Sewer District No. 5.
By using wastewater in its operations, Graphic Packing can all but quit utilizing water from the endangered Sparta Aquifer. Graphic Packaging currently draws about 10 millions gallons per day from the aquifer.
"This gives us right at $20 million, which is what we need to do the project," Norris said of last week's bond sale.
"It feels real good, but you're never there until you're there," Norris said.
The city of West Monroe recently advertised for bids for certain components for the project while plans are in the works to advertise for bids for additional components for the project soon.
"We're really moving along," Norris said. "Engineering is either underway or completed."
The engineering firm Ford, Bacon and Davis is conducting the design work for mechanical systems at the city's treatment facility while Lazenby & Associates handled design work of the pipeline that will carry treated water from the city's wastewater treatment plant to Graphic Packaging.
Norris recalls meeting with Gov. Bobby Jindal before he was sworn into office in January 2008 concerning the Sparta Reuse project.
"He came up here and talked to some group, and I met with him and explained the project to him," Norris said. "He asked a lot of questions and in the end he said, 'We will fund $14 million for this project.'"
He has been very true to his word," Norris added.
The Legislature approved $7 million in capital outlay funding last year for the project, and another $7 million in capital outlay funding this year, Norris said.
The additional $4.75 million was secured through a grant from the Department of Environmental Quality.
"We applied for some funding for the Sparta Reuse project through DEQ, and our project was considered to be a green project (or environmentally-friendly)," Norris said. "So, we were successful in getting a commitment of $4.75 million in a grant, and $1.25 million is our match, so it's a total of $6 million.
"The way this is done is they (the state) sell bonds for it," Norris explained. "It's like you are borrowing the entire amount, but as you do the project, they forgive the loan on the first part."
"Between the sewer district and the city, we're really only borrowing $1.25 million. The rest of it will be a grant as the project proceeds, and it's just a loan forgiveness."
Besides helping reduce the burden on the Sparta Aquifer, the project is beneficial in that technology has now been developed to upgrade surface water into drinking water standards, according to Norris.
"If we can do it with wastewater, then we certainly could do it with lake water or something like that," Norris said. "I would imagine this technique will be used to try and solve the total Sparta problem by using it in other areas."
John Stamberg, vice president of Energy Ventures Analysis of Arlington, Va., developed the concept to take wastewater and turn it into drinking water quality.
Stamberg is overseeing the Sparta Reuse project for the city of West Monroe.