Shreveport’s Water and Sewer Infrastructure

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–The Needs and Costs–

Shreveport Attorney John Settle
by John Settle

A recent report by Shreveport Interim City Engineer Robert Westermen on the status of the city’s infrastructure was directed to the Shreveport City Counsel and Mayor Cedric Glover. It should not only be required reading (and study) by these individuals as well as by upcoming city council and mayoral candidates.

Westermen reports that the current state of the wastewater collection system is not adequate to convey the flows into the system to the wastewater treatment facilities. This inadequacy results in sewer overflows into neighborhoods and stresses the lift stations and treatment plants. The “fix”, according to Westermen, lies not only in repairing defective pipes and rehabilitating lift stations, but also in committing to an overall evaluation of the system.

He explained that to expand the water distribution system, it is relatively easy to install a pipe to allow water to flow through it. Sewer is different; it collects from one point to another, where it is then combined with other flows from other places and then continues on. In essence, with sewer changes in one place effect what happens further downstream; if these changes are not accounted for system-wide, it results in capacity issues.

Westermen notes that the City has hired a consultant to provide engineering services for a Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Survey and Wastewater Master Plan. The initial round of work is expected to take two to three years and the complete system evaluation will require an additional six years. The engineering management component will cost approximately $26 million and the initial physical surveys and inspections may cost as much as $20 to $25 million based on the negotiated Consent Decree with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice. It is estimated that approximately $70 million in capacity improvement projects may be needed to satisfy the Consent Decree.

According to Westermen, the T.L. Amiss Water Purification Facility (originally built in the early 1930’s) is aging and requires significant investment to maintain its original treatment capacity of 90 million gallons per day (MGD). This plant takes water from Cross Lake and is the City’s primary source of drinking water. The Amiss Facility provides an average of 41 MGD of drinking water on a daily basis. Currently in The Plant can only treat 78 MGD based on the most current design parameters and EPA regulations.

Westermen notes that if one of the water treatment processes are out of service for cleaning or repair, the total capacity of the Amiss plant is reduced. He believes that on average there is adequate capacity to provide drinking water to Shreveport. However this capacity is stretched considerably during the summer months when the demands can, and have, risen to the total capacity of the plant.

Westermen advises that while the City has expended considerable funds to rectify water pressure issues in southeast Shreveport, city-wide issues of aged and undersized water are major problems. The City must continually repair these mains when they fail; water main breaks not only provide an inconvenience to customers, but also cost the City millions per year in emergency repair costs as well as lost water. The Department of Engineering and Environmental Services has estimated that approximately $140 million is needed to bring the water distribution system up to current standards and levels of reliable service.

A $175 million General Obligation Bond was passed by Shreveport voters to address water and sewer. A portion of the $175 million was sold in 2011 which allowed a large number of the needed projects to be designed and some constructed. A second bond sale for the balance of the bonds is required to fund design and/or construction for the remaining projects as approved in the original bond. Westermen notes that while design is nearing completion for some projects, construction will be put on hold until these second bond sale funds become available.

Presently the Shreveport City Council has delayed the second bond sale; the Council does not want Glover to utilize the services of his financial advisor Calvin Grigsby. (To date Heavy G has insisted he will not comply with this request.) A second concern of the Council is the failure of the Glover administration to provide a proper accounting of the progress on the projects funded from the first bond sale, as well as other left over bond money not expended.

Most politicos agree that Shreveport’s new mayor should be in office before any further bond sales. Too many loose ends need to be tied up by Heavy G and his staff for an orderly transition by the end of this year and a bond sale could limit flexibility in planning by Glover’s successor in office. As it stands, there is plenty for the Glover administration to do to properly administer the proceeds of first sale by the end of the year.

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