ADEM grant to fund Lowndes County water system improvements

Published 8:00 am Friday, October 21, 2022

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Lowndes County residents served by public water and sewer systems will soon enjoy improvements funded by $122 Million in Alabama Department of Environmental Management grant dollars awarded to Alabama’s Black Belt Counties.

ADEM approved the first monies for release from the grant and to date has signed off on a $1,000,000 Town of Lowndesboro water main replacement project, $735,000 for new water mains and generators for the Lowndes County Water Authority, and two Town of Hayneville project totaling more than $12 Million for sewer and water system improvements.

According to Lowndesboro Water Operator Wynn Ellis, the water main improvement project will improve water quality for nearly 400 residents by replacing the last remaining cast-iron pipes installed with the original system in 1964.

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“Our water starts at Lowndes Academy where the original system was,” Ellis explained. “That’s where our cast iron pipe is. When water runs through that cast iron pipe, there’s a certain amount of risk that rust may get into the water. By replacing it, we’ll get good water all the way through the system now.”

Lowndes County Water Authority Board Chairperson Orbuty Ozier, is Mayor of Gordonville and expects a positive impact from projects the utility has will accomplish with grant funds. 

More than 1200 county residents served by the system will enjoy fewer issues than before the improvements – like leaks and low water pressure – and more sustainable service with the newly purchased generators which will keep water flowing even through power outages.

“In some areas, the pipeline is over 40 years old,” Ozier reflected. “We’ve been doing a lot of repairs. By putting new lines in, that would eliminate a lot of those repairs. Also, we’ll be able to acquire a couple of generators. We deal with a lot of power outages in the rural areas. The generators will aid and assist with that as well.”

ADEM approved funding for two projects the Town of Hayneville has planned – $10,200,200 for greatly-needed sewer system improvements and $2,899,288 for upgrades to the water system, including line and cut-off valve replacements, mapping the system, and bringing a well back online which has been down for some time.

“The sewage system has 583 customers,” said Hayneville Mayor Jimmy Davis. “With the improvements we will take on about 67 more.”

Upgrades will benefit more than 900 water customers too, Davis added. 

“We’re improving the quality of the water. Keeping the sanitation system running helps to keep down disease,” he said.

In September, ADEM announced the award of $348 million in grant funds to repair and upgrade water and sewer systems in Alabama. More than $77 million in grants were approved for communities in the Black Belt and ADEM has set aside another $45 million to invest $122 million in the region’s public water and sewer systems.

The ADEM grants are designed to address the significant repairs and upgrades needed to provide adequate water and sewer services to residents served by many of Alabama’s 1,061 public systems. Half of the systems statewide submitted requests for much-needed projects totaling more than $3.2 billion.

“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,” ADEM Director Lance LeFleur said in ADEM’s September press release. “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.”

The recipients chosen so far are the first round of grants and loans ADEM will award, LeFleur stressed.

“We make no pretense that we can satisfy all the water and sewer infrastructure needs in the state of Alabama,” he said. “The billions of dollars in requests we have received total several times the amount of money we have available. Projects we are not able to fund this year will be considered for funding in future years.”