ST. FRANCISVILLE — A $3.8 million project to provide sewer service to a rural area of West Feliciana Parish is nearing completion after a struggle of more than 10 years. Contractors and parish employees tested the sewage treatment portion of the project on Thursday.

The new system will serve the Independence area, off La. 965 and U.S. 61 southeast of St. Francisville.

Police Juror Otis Wilson, who represents the area, said some lots in the community are too small for septic tanks and individual mechanical treatment plants to work properly, resulting in raw sewage draining into roadside ditches.

“Two trailer parks in the area have treatment systems that are too small,” he added.

The jury voted 4-3 in September 2002 to appropriate $20,000 from video poker revenues to hire engineers to begin drawing up funding applications for the project.

The jury eventually got loans and grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Community Development Block Grant program to install sewer lines, build lift stations and construct a treatment plant.

“It’s been a long time, but I believed it would happen eventually,” Wilson said.

Parish Manager John Hashagen said the system is designed to serve 350 customers, but it will start operations with 146, who will be charged $35 per month.

Hashagen said 96 of the 146, because of their income level, were eligible for Community Development Block Grant money to connect their homes to the sewage collection lines.

The effluent will flow to a treatment plant off U.S. 61, on the opposite side of the highway from the River Bend nuclear power plant access road.

Effluent will flow into a large pond, or lagoon, at one end of the site, where it will be channeled in a zig-zag pattern around a series of vertical high-density plastic curtains while pumps deliver air to the water to stimulate bacterial decomposition of the effluent.

After moving through the first pond, the effluent enters a second pond that is covered with a floating cap made of strips of high-density plastic tied together and connected to anchors on the banks. The plastic also includes buoyant material to float the cover on the water’s surface. The cover retards the growth of algae in the effluent, while bacteria continue to break down the solids.

David Appel, of Lemna Technologies Inc., the manufacturer, said the cover helps limit the odors rising from the second pond. In Northern states, the cover also helps warm the water to the temperature needed for good bacterial action, he said.