400 water and sewer systems in Alabama apply for $225 million of grant money

(UC) — Almost 400 public water and sewer systems in Alabama have applied for grants to repair and upgrade their systems through a program funded by COVID-19 relief money, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management said.

There is $225 million of funding available, the department said, and up to $120 million will be awarded to public water and sewer systems that have emergency or high needs projects. No local match funding is required for these projects.

An additional $100 million in grants will be awarded to public water and sewer systems that may require local matching funds, the department said. These projects will also be based on need, whether it is based on system infrastructure or finances.

The Legislature also designated up to $5 million for demonstration sewer projects in the Black Belt, a region in central Alabama. These projects will target problems such as soil conditions that prevent wastewater from septic systems from being absorbed into the ground, failing sewer or septic systems, the use of “straight pipes” in the absence of a functioning septic system or sewer service, and other issues related to poor, sparsely populated, rural areas of the Black Belt, the department said.

Baldwin County, Alabama is applying for millions of dollars’ worth of grants to pay for stormwater run-off and improvements to its sewer systems needed because of the county’s rapid growth, NBC affiliate WPMI reported.

Baldwin County, which sits on the Gulf Coast and is the largest county in the state by area, has applied for almost $14 million in grants to improve stormwater run-off and drainage, Baldwin County Engineer Joey Nunnally told WPMI.

Daphne Utilities Board is within the county and maintains about 180 miles of water lines to serve more than 11,000 customers. The board applied for $23 million for sewer system improvements, Daphne Mayor Robin LeJeune told WPMI.

"There are things we want to do. There are generators for some of our bypass pumps and lift stations," LeJeune said, according to the article. "When we have a hurricane and the power goes out, one of the reasons you have sewer overflows into the bay is because lift stations don't continue to pump."

Grants will be awarded on a ranking system that gives special consideration to projects that improve access to water or sewer services in communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19 or that lack local funding to complete the projects on their own.

The department has not said when the grants will be awarded.

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