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Health Department provides way to help Lowndes residents with sewage problems

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

The Alabama Department of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental Services, has established an account for those wishing to donate funds to help Lowndes County citizens who qualify for the Alabama Onsite Wastewater Association (AOWA) TRAC program (septic tank disposal system) and who live in areas where connecting to a community system would be impossible.

Sherry Bradley, director of the Alabama Department of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental Services announced on Friday, Aug. 17 the bureau is working with several agencies to pursue avenues to find “relief for the citizens of Lowndes County from improper sewage disposal problems, especially in the unincorporated areas where connecting to some type of community sewage disposal system will be impossible.

Bradley said Lowndes County has “some of the worst soils in the United States.”

In addition, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell recently held the meeting to find solutions and funding for sanitary sewer system access for unserved Lowndes County residents in what she called a “pilot program” involving the Alabama Department of Public Health, state agencies and universities.

Sewell received “tentative” approval for a moratorium on fines and actions by the Alabama Department of Public Health against homeowners in Lowndes County for improper or failing septic tanks systems in order to determine the scope of the problem in the county.

Bradley said, “This bureau has long supported the efforts of and has partnered with the AOWA and the Alabama Onsite Wastewater Board (AOWB) concerning sanitation and proper sewage disposal.

She said, “For many years, the AOWA members have donated onsite sewage disposal systems at no cost to the homeowner who meet the qualifications through their TRAC program; however, it is this longevity of the program that has slowly drained funds from suppliers who donate labor, parts and equipment.”

She continued, “Because of this, donations from the public to assist the TRAC program are gladly appreciated.”

She said to qualify for the program, one must have zero income (a person on food assistance or SSI could qualify). However, she said, the individuals must own their home and land… “a person with zero income living in a mobile home placed on rental property will not qualify for the TRAC program.”

 

Bradley said, “For any individual, businesses or religious organizations that would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the “Lowndes County Blackbelt Community Outreach” efforts, the Alabama Department of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental Services, has set-up a fund for this purpose.

She stressed, “This fund targets the concerns of improper wastewater disposal in Lowndes County.  The Bureau will work in partnership with the Alabama Onsite Wastewater Association and the Alabama Onsite Wastewater Board in our efforts for better sanitation conditions.  These funds will be used to offset the installation of certified septic tank systems and onsite repairs for those who qualify.”
Please make checks payable to the: Alabama Department of Public Health
Checks should be mailed to the:
Bureau of Environmental Services
The RSA Tower
201 Monroe Street, Suite 1250
Montgomery, AL 
 36104-3017

Another avenue the Bureau of Environmental Services is seeking is to assist AOWA with their application process for potential funding provided by USDA; Bradley said, these funds would be used to offset the cost to Lowndes County citizens for a new septic tank disposal system to be installed and necessary maintenance for the life of the system.

“This program would not compete with any county official’s Community Decentralized Systems,” she said, and, “there is more information to come concerning this project.
Bradley said, “Lastly, for those with approved individual onsite sewage disposal systems (approved meaning the local health department reviewed and approved the application, installation and use) public service announcements have gone out statewide with messages on “how to keep your septic tank working properly.”