Local projects submitted for possible ADEM funds

Published 9:15 am Thursday, October 6, 2022

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Several communities across Covington County are among those that applied for grant and loan funding for water and sewer projects through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

While some of the projects were approved for funding in September, ADEM officials said those represent only the first round of funding and others could be approved later this year or next year.

Covington County has submitted three applications for wastewater grants. The Covington County Commission is requesting $5.6 million for Point A Lake decentralized wastewater collection and treatment center. The Florala Utilities Board applied for $1.1 million for improvements to lift stations while the Town of Lockhart is asking for just over $500,000 to be used for sanitary sewer improvements.

Three communities applied for funding for drinking water projects to replace water main lines. The Opp Utilities Board applied to receive $758,600, Florala Utilities Board requested almost $1.7 million, and the Town of Red Level seeks $313,000.

None of the proposed projects in Covington County have been approved for ADEM funding to date. ADEM Director Lance LeFleur stressed that the recipients chosen to date represent only the first round of grants and loans to be awarded.

The proposed Point A Lake project would allow county officials to consider a sewer system for that area.

“We have seen a lot of development around our lakes and with that comes a concern for ground contamination. This project would provide a starting point for us to consider a sewer system and increase the possibility of long-term development around the lake. We would love the opportunity to serve the campground and expand development in that area,” said Covington County Commission Chairman Greg White.

Florala officials said the projects they hope to fund would allow the city to upgrade aging equipment and lines.

“Our lift station is still an above-ground, belt-driven pump that sits in a low point. We want to get that built up,” said Chris Jackson, utilities superintendent and public works director for the City of Florala. “The equipment has probably been there since they invented it back in the ‘30s or ‘40s. All of our lift stations are aging. We keep them maintained, but lately, we have had to change out motors. It’s time to upgrade that equipment.”

Jackson added that any funding received for water mains would allow the city to upgrade older galvanized lines.

“Much of the city’s water lines are galvanized. The state is strongly looking at replacing galvanized lines and getting rid of as much of the metal as possible. The funding will allow us to get started with changing out some of those old galvanized lines for higher quality water and better service for our citizens,” Jackson said.

So far, ADEM has awarded $348 million to communities, representing 48 counties, for water and sewer projects. ADEM expects to receive $765 million over the next five years from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress last year, and is combining that with $111 million in grants and loans through the State Revolving Fund (SRF). All totaled, ADEM expects to commit $473 million this year to water and sewer systems.

Nearly half of the state’s 1,061 public water and sewer systems statewide submitted requests for projects totaling more than $3.2 billion.

According to ADEM, many of the public water and sewer systems in Alabama — large and small; rural, urban and suburban — have significant repair and upgrade needs. Some residents also lack adequate water or sewer service, adversely affecting their health and quality of life. The loans and grants announced by ADEM are designed to address those problems.

“Thanks to Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Legislature, we are making an unprecedented investment in water and sewer systems across Alabama to address longstanding and, in some cases, dire needs that go back decades,” LeFleur said. “These funds are going to communities with the most critical needs, such as in the Black Belt, that would not otherwise be able to afford the repairs and upgrades on their own. These projects are going to have a significant, positive effect on the lives of millions of Alabamians.”

ADEM has created a webpage, www.alabamawaterprojects.com, to provide the public with information about the program and regular updates on grant applications and awards. The webpage includes links to lists of the water and sewer systems that have applied for grants and loans, as well as those systems that already have been awarded funding. You can also access the information through ADEM’s website, www.adem.alabama.gov, under the “ARPA/SRF Updates” button.