HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Federal funding for COVID-19 relief and a bipartisan infrastructure bill could soon have an impact on helping to improve Alabama’s drinking water and wastewater systems.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management requires the state’s 1,100 water and wastewater treatment systems to submit funding projects to Alabama through federal grants.
ADEM executive director Lance LeFleur told News 19 on Tuesday that the Alabama legislature has allocated $225 million from U.S. Relief Act funds for water and sewer projects, and the Infrastructure Act will provide $765 million over five years for the same purpose.
The application deadline for the sewage system is April 1, and the agency wants the community to seek funding, LeFleur said. ADEM estimates that 37 percent of the state’s systems have applied for funding.
ADEM records show that to date, there have been 265 requests for funding for drinking water projects totaling $1.347 billion. The wastewater request included 186 items totaling $1.379 billion, records show.
The funding, which totals about $1 billion, could have a significant impact on the lives of potentially one million or more Alabama residents, LeFleur said.
Moreover, the scale of demand is clear.
“When the Clean Water Act passed into law in the 1970s, I think it was 1970,” LeFleur said. “A lot of money is available to build infrastructure related to clean water, clean drinking water and proper treatment of wastewater. These investments were made 50 years ago, and over time these systems have reached the end of their useful life.”
ADEM said the Alabama legislature directed $120 million to be allocated to public water and sewer systems with emergency or high-need projects.
“Grants will be awarded based on a ranking system that specifically considers projects that improve access to water or sewer services in communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 or in communities that lack local funding to do their own projects. These projects do not require local matching funds,” ADEM said in a press release.
The legislature also directed that “$100 million in grants will be made available to public water and sewer systems that may require matching funds based on local ability to pay. These projects will also be based on need—system infrastructure needs and financial needs,” ADEM said.
And, $5 million will be used for the Black Belt Demonstration Sewer Project. These projects will address issues such as soil conditions that prevent septic system wastewater from being absorbed into the ground, sewer or septic system failure, and the use of “straight pipes” without a functioning septic system or sewer service. Black Belts are associated with poor, sparsely populated rural areas,” ADEM said.
The request includes:
- The City of Madison is seeking $26 million to improve water systems;
- The City of Decatur is requesting $62 million for its wastewater system to deal with periodic spills;
- The City of Moulton is seeking $20 million to improve its water system.
A full list of project requests can be found here.
There will be about $1 billion available, which is considerable, but current requests exceed even that.
Project funding will begin disbursing on June 1, LeFleur said.