Tentative Deal Made To Buy Water System In Donaldsonville

DONALDSONVILLE, LA (AP) — Ascension Parish government has reached an agreement in principle with Peoples Water Service Co. to buy its water operations in Donaldsonville for $5.9 million.

         If the deal goes through, officials say the parish plans to inject another $5 million in upgrades to the water system,

         After months of negotiations, Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez tells The Advocate’s David J. Mitchell the company and parish officials were able to agree on a number between the parish's earlier offer of $5 million and Peoples Water's most recent price of $7.5 million.

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         Many steps need to happen for the deal to go through, including state Public Service Commission review of the sale and Parish Council approval of it.

         But the proposed purchase would allow the parish to combine the 3,100-customer water system serving Donaldsonville with a parish-owned system of 700 customers that exists on the city's periphery and extends far afield to the upriver community of Modeste.

         The parish system, known as Ascension Consolidated Utilities District No. 1, has not been able to turn a profit, and recently, tests revealed that the brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri was in the water.

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         After discovery of the amoeba July 28, the state Department of Health and Hospitals ordered the district to conduct a chlorine burn, in which chlorine levels are increased and maintained at that level for a 60-day period to kill the amoeba. State officials said the system hit the required chlorine levels Aug. 17 to start the 60-day clock on the burn.

         The Peoples Water purchase would give the parish a centrally located, 3 million-gallon-per-day water plant and disinfection system on the Mississippi River with excess capacity and would allow the parish to stop buying and piping in water from neighboring parishes.

         The deal's financing also is projected to turn an annual profit for the now money-losing ACUD No. 1 system but would come with a 33 percent rate increase for current Peoples Water customers in Donaldsonville to help finance the Peoples Water system upgrades and for paying off the debt owed on ACUD, parish officials said.

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         "I think it's a great deal for everyone concerned here, and I think it'll work and it's a step in the right direction," Martinez told the Parish Council Utilities Committee last week when he first announced the agreement.

         For more information





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