The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is opening a new water testing laboratory next week.

Right now, water samples from our region have to be sent to Baton Rouge for testing. DHH Spokesman Bob Johannessen told KEEL News this new lab will mean a quicker turnaround time for water sample testing, which means service can be restored to customers quicker. It also means big cost-savings.

"There's a tremendous cost involved in shipping water samples to Baton Rouge," Johannessen said. "You're looking at someone having to transport those water samples. So, it's not only time, it's the cost and the wear and tear on vehicles that all comes into play on that. Now we don't have to send them so far."

The local lab will accept samples from anywhere in the state, but will mainly serve water systems in the Shreveport, Monroe and Alexandria regions, while the Baton Rouge lab will serve the more southern regions of the state.

Johannessen said in addition to being a better service for our water systems throughout north Louisiana, it's also a savings to the taxpayers. This comes at a time when our state is facing huge budget problems.

"It's going to cost us about $18,000 just to open the lab," he said. "But when you factor in all the savings that we're going to achieve, just by reducing the amount of transportation, the amount of miles driven, we estimate we could save upwards of $50,000 a year."

The Shreveport lab will open Monday, February 29, on the third floor of the Caddo Parish Health Unit. Full details about how to contact the lab, its hours of operation and sample delivery protocols will be announced in the coming days.