NEW ORLEANS — A construction crew is digging up and replacing 80-to-100-year-old sewer lines under the streets of the Hollygrove neighborhood in New Orleans.
Wastewater pipes across the city are crumbling and storm damaged.
Some of the work is being done on Hamilton Street in front of Rev. Kevin Matthews’s home.
“It’s good for me. It’s good for the neighborhood. Anytime you see somebody doing work around, it’s good for that neighborhood.
Tuesday, state and local leaders and officials from the Sewerage and Water Board gathered not far from Matthews’ home.
They announced a $275 million infrastructure loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
It will help pay for more than 160 projects to evaluate, modernize, and improve the city’s aging sewer system.
“Breaks and sags in sewer lines can cause infiltration of ground water in the sewer lines,” said Ghassan Korban, SWBNO Executive Director. “This can result in reduced capacity of the lines, increasing risk of sewer back up.”
The loan is expected to save the utility about $100 million dollars over the course of the 30-year, low-cost loan.
It also allows the water board to do the work without having to ask customers for a rate increase.
“No elected official, mayor likes to tell the folks that I’ve got to raise your rates because those lines that have been buried 80 and 100 years ago are now deteriorating,” Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Chuck Brown said.
Mayor Latoya Cantrell called it a critical step in improving the city’s infrastructure.
“We knew that this funding source could pay tremendous dividends to the city of New Orleans,” Cantrell said. “Together, (it) will vastly improve our city sewer system.”
Rev. Matthews says the sewer line replacement project will improve the quality of life in the city.
“We can do nothing about them being old and deteriorated, but we are happy about the work that’s being done, now,” Matthews said.
According to an agreement with the EPA, all of the projects funded by the loan are expected to be completed within the next 4-5 years.
Project construction and operation are expected to create an estimated 1,800 jobs.
Radhika Fox, U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator was supposed to be at Tuesday’s announcement, but her plane was diverted to Jackson, Mississippi because of foggy conditions at Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans.