NWI to build temporary sewer plant on Hwy 42; acquisition of parish assets pushed to May

Ascension’s Parish Council recently approved a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) with National Water Infrastructure, LLC (NWI) to treat sewage generated along Hwy 42 in northeast Ascension Parish.  The agreement piggybacks on the contract approved by voters on April 24, 2021 whereby NWI will purchase all of the parish’s sewer treatment assets, a sale that cannot be finalized without approval of Louisiana’s Public Service Commission (PSC).  In the interim…

“Additional sewage treatment facilities are needed to adequately provide for the collection and treatment of wastewater along the Hwy 42 corridor in the Parish.”

NWI has agreed to build a temporary treatment plant to meet the need.

Currently, a significant number in the corridor or served by the treatment plant at Oak Grove Primary School which has experienced overflow in the past.  It is a persistent problem made more acute as new customers have been allowed to connect to pipes along Hwy 42 (new ones were installed as a requisite to road improvements by Louisiana DOTD).  NWI has already commenced sewage treatment for Ascension’s customers, a euphemism considering the parish was forced to take over failing systems over the decades.

To accommodate users along Hwy 42 the company…

“…proposes to construct, operate and maintain a temporary treatment plant sized to treat approximately 200,000 gallons per day, and the necessary interconnected collection and pumping systems, along Hwy 42 located on land to be leased by (NWI)…which will collect sewer derived from Hwy 42 corridor, including redirecting wastewater from the Hwy 42 Main to the Hwy 42 Treatment Plant…thereby alleviating overflow issues experienced at the Oak Grove System.”

The temporary plant is outside the scope of last year’s agreement which, if/when Louisiana’s PSC approves the deal, envisions comprehensive east bank treatment by NWI which would build a major treatment plant along the Mississippi.  In fact, “Capital improvements to the Oak Grove System were expressly excluded from the prior CEA.”  But, upon PSC approval and System Sale Completion…

“…the Parish Property related to the Oak Grove System, including any Capital Improvements, along with all other Parish Property, shall become property of (NWI).  In such event, any and all amounts owed to (NWI)…shall be applied as a credit towards the purchase price to be paid by (NWI) for the Parish Property.”

The purchase price for Ascension’s “assets” is $9.26 million.  What happens if the PSC rejects the sale?

“In the event that the System Sale is not completed, for any reason, the Parish shall, within 60 days therefrom (i) pay to (NWI) any and all amounts expended or obligations incurred… (ii) at the sole option of (NWI), purchase of the Hwy 42 Treatment Plant, including all infrastructure, equipment and other assets necessary for its operation.”

Public Hearing for NWI’s application is scheduled for May 25, 2023:

Docket No. U-36383:  Application for adjustment in rates for current and acquired systems, including certification of regionalization project and construction work in progress recovery of capital expenditures and associated financing, and for Letter of Non-Opposition of acquisition of Ascension Parish Wastewater Assets.

The Commission lacked sufficient expertise on staff to adequately examine the deal between Ascension Parish and NWI.  In August it issued an RFP to hire an “outside consultant” to perform the task.