LCUWP accepting applications for new septic systems

Published 9:30 am Thursday, March 23, 2023

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The Lowndes County Unincorporated Wastewater Program (LCUWP) office is accepting applications from residents needing new septic systems.

Carmelita Arnold, LCUWP board president, said applications are available now and the board is seeking requests from residents specifically in the West Lowndes County communities of Collirene, Minter, Farmersville, Braggs, Fostoria, Dutch Bend, Casey or Five Points, and others.

“Wastewater has been a long standing problem,” Arnold said. “In Lowndes County people are living with failing or non-working septic systems.” 

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According to Lowndes County Commission Chairman Charlie King, Jr., wastewater issues exist across the county.

“We are a poverty stricken county,” King said. “A septic system can cost anywhere from $10 thousand to $15 thousand. A person who can hardly afford [a home] doesn’t have that kind of money. People [with wastewater issues] sometimes can’t afford to fix it so the commission is trying to fix it and make it better from here on out.”

The county’s clay soil is non absorbent, Arnold explained, and standard septic systems fail in the area. Soil conditions coupled with poverty make for environmental hazards and unsafe living conditions for families, children, and the disabled.

“There are residents who have relied on a process known as straight piping,” Arnold said. “Homeowners install PVC pipes throughout the envelope of the home to the water fixtures and toilets to remove the wastewater, which causes open air exposure to raw sewage on the ground. Sometimes it’s just feet away from the home. They can’t afford the cost of a specially designed system to work in the type of soil we have.”

Arnold said the LCUWP was founded in 2019 to be led by Lowndes County residents. The board, composed of representatives from each district, was formed to eliminate straight piping and address wastewater disposal issues faced by residents living in unincorporated areas where public sewer systems are not available.

King was elected to the commission in 2020, during the program’s formation. Since that time, King has worked alongside other commissioners to ensure board members from each district were appointed for the work. That board is now complete and ready to accept applications for new septic systems.

“We have representatives from each district appointed to the board to represent the residents, to take residents news, and bring back their concerns,” Harris said. “The board goes out and seeks grants then reports back to the Commissioners. They also let us know what they need and if they need something we try to give it to them.”

Arnold said the board is committed to transparency, so that residents and commissioners alike will understand where the program stands and how funding is spent.

“Our commitment now is to transparency so that residents of Lowndes County, funders, and government officials know where their funds have been spent and how many people have been helped,” Arnold said. “We are all of the same mind and our effort is to be transparent and to help as many people as we can.”

Board members include Arnold, who serves as president and represents District 1, secretary/treasurer Elbert Means representing District 4, Martin McCall representing District 3, Ellis Bandy representing District 2, and Jackie Patterson from District 5.

According to King, the board is working with the county-appointed grant writer, Deborah Stewart, to gain program funding. 

“The board has a grant writer and they are looking for grants and funding to operate,” King said. “They propose to do around 120 homes in the first phase.”

Arnold said the board will assess applications to determine residents with the most urgent needs.

“Residents will need to be the homeowner,” Arnold said. “They have to meet the income requirement and then we need to know how many people live in the house. Selection will depend on the severity of the need.”

The board will hold a groundbreaking ceremony on April 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the County Commission Chambers to provide residents with an opportunity to meet board members and ask questions.

For more information, call the LCUWP office at (334) 548-2006 on Wednesday or Thursday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. or visit the office located at the Lowndes County Health Department at 507 E. Tuskeena Street in Hayneville.