With water on the east bank still at a critical mass, the parish council is looking for ways to finance the multi-million upgrade to the east bank facilities. While there is almost uniform agreement that the east bank water capacity must be improved, how to pay for the project remains open for debate.
Waterworks Director Robert Brou said on May 15 he will introduce a plan that was proposed at a special meeting of the parish council at the beginning of April.
In that plan, the heaviest consumers would pay, almost single-handedly, for the upgrade. Engineer Rick Shread, who was hired by the parish to design the improvement, favors this plan, as it has those using between 6,000 to 10,000 gallons per month receiving a rate increase of $4.00 per 1000 gallons. Also under the plan, those consumers of 10,000+ gallons a month would see a $4.30 rate per 1000 gallon increase.
Of all consumers, Brou said 61.9 percent would not see an increase to their bill, adding that on average most parish households use about 5000 gallons. Those that use between 6,000 and 10,000 comprise 29.2 percent and 8.9 percent of users consume over 10,000 gallons a month.
As for the heaviest users of St. Charles Parish's water, in 2005, the top 5 users were Entergy, Valero, Shell, Argus Chemical and Bunge North America. All of last year, Entergy used 164.5 million gallons, or 6.5 percent of total parish consumption; Valero used 146.1 gallons, or 5.79 percent; and Shell 139.1 used million gallons, or 5.5 percent. As the heaviest users in the parish, each of these companies could see a substantial increase in their water bill. In some cases, there would be a doubling of a company's bill.
Currently, local industry remains tight-lipped in responding to the proposal. One spokesperson for a major corporation in the parish, who asked to remain anonymous, said big industry might be tempted to start making their own water if rates continue to increase, something Shell used to do.
The upgrade will have several parts, including a $2.4 million sub-aqueous Mississippi River crossing, $13 million east bank water treatment plant, $2.3 million west bank filter bank upgrade and $1.6 million west bank storage tank. The proposed grand total of these projects will total almost $25 million.