Photo provided by Charlotte Guedry -- Gathering Feb. 12 for a presentation from Department of Environmental Quality at Gonzales city hall, from left, council members Barbara Duhe and Kenny Matassa, Mayor Barney Arcenaux, DEQ Secretary Peggy Hatch, Councilman David Guitreau, DEQ Deputy Secretary Vladimir Alex Appeaning, Councilman-Elect Neal Bourque and GSA Engineers’ Glen Shaheen.

A $15 million loan from the Department of Environmental Quality will let the city of Gonzales upgrade and expand its sewer system in three phases over the next few years to meet future demand from a growing community.

“I can’t be more excited about it. It’s a continuation of helping with our economic development,” Mayor Barney Arceneaux said at a Feb. 12 presentation of a ceremonial $15 million check to the city by DEQ officials, including DEQ Secretary Peggy Hatch and DEQ Deputy Secretary Vladimir Alex Appeaning.

“It’s a great day in the city of Gonzales,” Councilman Kenny Matassa said. “The city of Gonzales works to stay ahead of the curve, we’ve always done that.”

The city’s waste water treatment facility on La. 44 will be expanded with the DEQ loan to be able to treat a higher volume of water, and the city’s sewer system will be extended south of Interstate-10, where the new Edenborne Development on La. 44 is located and where new development is planned on the M.P. Evans property further south on La. 44.

“We can’t wait until they’re started,” City Engineer Jackie Baumann said in a recent interview of future development in the city.

Planning for and putting into place city sewer services takes time, Baumann said, and in the fall of 2013, the city looked ahead and decided to explore DEQ loan options.

The first part of the sewer system rehabilitation and expansion is to rid current sewer lines of leaks that, during rainstorms, admit enough rain water into the lines to increase the volume of water treated at the waste water treatment facility by 20 percent, she said.

Typically, the center treats approximately 2.5 million gallons of water daily, Baumann said.

At its most recent meeting, on Feb. 9, the Gonzales City Council approved a low bid of approximately $1.53 million by Gulf Coast Underground, headquartered in Mobile, Alabama, to rehabilitate the city’s older sewer lines, many of which were put in during the 1950s.

The company will first be videotaping the inside of the lines to spot problems like cracks or tree roots in the pipes, Baumann said.

Options for stopping leaks of rain water into the system range from making manholes seal better to installing new pipe, Baumann said.

After that first phase of the project, the city will move on to expanding the waste water treatment facility and expanding sewer lines south of the city.

Baumann said the city hopes to have the first two phases of the project — the rehabilitation of the sewer lines and the expansion of the waste water treatment center — completed this year, with the expansion of the sewer system south of the interstate completed in three years.

The city’s sewer system, currently about 35 miles of lines, serves approximately 10,000 residents and 720 businesses, according to Baumann and Anthony Keller, central service director for the city.

The loan application process, handled for the city by GSA Consulting Engineers of Gonzales, to improve and expand the system began in the fall 2013.

The city received an initial approval letter from the DEQ a year ago, City Clerk Clay Stafford said, and the city closed on the loan Feb. 3.

The loan operates as a line of credit, Stafford said, and is paid out as work is completed and invoices are submitted to the DEQ.

The city, he said, will immediately begin paying back the loan monies, with funds generated by a half-cent sales tax, approved by voters in 1989, that’s dedicated to improvement of the sewer system.

Appeaning said after last week’s presentation of the ceremonial check to the city that, since 2008, the DEQ has funded 125 wastewater infrastructure projects in 55 parishes.

“Any time we can promote economic development and improving the environment,” it’s a win-win situation, DEQ Secretary Hatch said at the ceremony.