LAWCO switching water source from Cottonport to AWC

Mansura hopes change will improve water quality

At the Town Council’s insistence, LAWCO will change water suppliers for its Mansura customers.

The town is one of the few in the parish that does not operate its own water system, but has a franchise agreement with a private company, LAWCO.

The council first raised the issue of changing suppliers from the Town of Cottonport to the Avoyelles Water Commission last year.

Mayor Kenneth Pickett told the Town Council at its Aug. 13 meeting that Cottonport was still having trouble complying with state standards for the level of “trihalomethanes” (TTHMs).

TTHMs are caused when materials combine with water disinfectants, such as chlorine. They pose no immediate threat to consumers, but exposure to high levels over many years may cause liver, kidney and nervous system issues, as well as an increased risk of cancer.

Pickett said LAWCO President Billy Edrington has spoken with AWC and the plans are approved for LAWCO to switch Mansura to AWC by November.

Edrington said last week that he has not yet received instructions to “make the switch, but I have told them that AWC is the way to go unless Cottonport does something to make its water better.”

Pickett said the new source will be for a six-month trial period to determine if the water quality is worth the estimated $3-5 per month increase customers will pay due to the higher cost charged by the Water Commission.

“Mansura deserves good water,” Pickett said.

He cautioned people not to expect “perfect water” with the change.

It is hoped the change will address not only the levels of TTHMs that were present in the Cottonport water source, but will also improve the quality of the water reaching the town’s homes and businesses.

“It will be good water, but it will not be perfect water,” Pickett noted.

Edrington said LAWCO pays Cottonport about $110,000 a year to supply water to Mansura customers. AWC would charge about $155,000 a year.

“It comes out to about 99 cents more per 1,000 gallons for each customer,” Edrington said.

The plus for LAWCO is that it would not have to do about $600,000 of work on a ground storage reservoir and an “air stripper” to help remove the TTHMs.

LAWCO would need some other work to pump the water from AWC into the Mansura distribution system. It would be able to serve the town with the elevated water tank. LAWCO is prepared to take whatever action the town wants.

“In a perfect world, we might be able to buy water from AWC in the summer, when the trihalomethanes are a problem, and buy from Cottonport in the winter when it isn’t a concern,” Edrington said. “I’m not sure either provider would agree to that, and it would require that we do work for ground storage -- but not requiring an air stripper.”

Irate citizens have appeared at several council meetings complaining about discolored and undrinkable water. They have said they are willing to pay a little more for water they can drink since they are spending more than that buying bottled water.

Edrington said there are two “quality issues” involved in the debate over the town’s water.

Changing providers to AWC will address the concerns of the trihalomethanes. AWC has never been cited for non-compliance with that standard, he said. However, Edrington said he cannot guarantee the “aesthetic quality” of the water will be significantly improved.

He said parts of the town’s water system are old and may contain metal deposits that cause discoloration and taste issues.

“We flush the pipes several times a year to guard against that, at our expense,” Edrington said. “We are ‘wasting’ water we buy from a supplier to clean out the pipes for our customers.”

LIBRARY UPDATE

In another matter, the council approved the intergovernmental agreement with the Police Jury and Parish Library System to house a library branch in the Railroad Depot Museum.

Library Director Theresa Thevenote said libraries and museums can easily co-exist in the same building.

Under the agreement, the library will pay for utilities and will not be charged rent to occupy the building. Library staff will help museum visitors during library operating hours.

In its current location in Mansura, the small library is open three days a week. Thevenote said that could expand if usage increases.

She said operating hours for the new library site are planned to change to make it available to students after school.

The town will maintain insurance for the building and the museum exhibits. The library will be responsible for insuring its contents.

Thevenote also discussed the issue with the Police Jury on Aug. 14. She said she will present a final agreement for the Police Jury’s approval at the September jury meeting, along with updates on other library projects in the parish.

She said the library will be making new bookshelves to install in the Mansura branch in preparation for moving in later this year.

2ND CHANCE CENTER

In another matter, the council gave its tentative support to possibly providing a free lease to the non-profit “Avoyelles Center for Second Chances” for the former Cleco/Family Clinic building, which is owned by the town. The center would pay all utilities during the term of the lease.

The center will be an alternative education program for 16- to 18-year-olds who have been incarcerated in the juvenile justice system and will be operated by Stanley Celestine Jr. He said the Second Chance Center will be a four-month program in which up to 20 students will work toward achieving their High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) diploma.

It will also have a job preparedness element in which participating students work for area businesses. The students will be paid through a grant and not by the partnering businesses.

Celestine said the center is modeled on a program in Houston. Officials with that program have been involved in planning this one. He said the organization is applying for grants at this time but does have some start-up funds available that will enable the program to open at some level in August 2019.

“The extent of services we will be able to offer will depend on the grants we receive,” Celestine said.

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