BBUWP approaches 100 septic systems certified

Published 3:19 pm Friday, April 26, 2024

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Calhoun resident Willie Perryman lives on the hill of property his grandfather purchased more than six decades ago. During all those years, the homes clustered together there have never had a proper wastewater disposal system.

Perryman and his family are one of many homeowners in Lowndes County living without proper wastewater disposal systems. Many employ a straight-pipe method to carry sewage away from their house and dump it onto the ground on the property.

“These [three] houses right here have never had a septic tank,” Perryman said. “We have lived here for 60 or 70 years. My grandfather owned it.”

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According to Perryman, he has looked into a septic tank before but found the cost to be more than he could afford.

“A straight pipe is a PVC pipe that comes straight out from the home,” said Sherry Bradley, environmental advisor for the Black Belt Unincorporated Wastewater Program (BBUWP). “A septic system that works in the Black Belt soil is at least $28,000.”

The program, launched in 2018, was created to help homeowners like Perryman and others trying to remedy the wastewater disposal problem facing Lowndes County residents for many generations. To date, the program has installed nearly 100 septic systems in Lowndes County, with another 100 homes pending installation.

“You do see people with problems,” Bradley said. “The BBUWP is here to help solve the problems and put in a system. The only things we can’t overcome is if [a resident] doesn’t have enough land or if heirs property is not in the resident’s name.”

For three years, BBUWP has partnered with IWSH, the International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation and global plumbing manufacturer Lixil, to train and employ high school students to conduct the surveys necessary to assess homeowner plumbing and sewage disposal needs. The partnership has allowed organizers to repair plumbing inside homes so that newly installed septic systems can operate properly.

“We do the surveys so that we can see everything that is needed inside the home,” said BBUWP board president Perman Hardy. “Yesterday we had a homeowner who had a dangerous situation with a hot water heater but they didn’t know it. So, we just go beyond the call of duty. We got it done and the situation really opened my eyes to the needs.”

The work of BBUWP is funded by grants and donations from organizations and individuals wanting to help. So far, the organization has spent $2.2 million on septic systems already installed and will spend another $2.2 million to install systems in homes that meet program requirements.

“We have 100 waiting, working through heirs’ property and other issues,” Bradley said. “We’re going to do something to help them. I called in the Federation of Land Assistance and they’re going to help.”

Perryman said BBUWP is the first organization which has approached him to offer assistance to correct the decades-old wastewater situation on his property. He will turn 70 in May and said he is glad for the help.

‘My yard is awful,” he said. “But I’m thankful for BBUWP trying to help.”

“We see the situation,” Hardy said. “We see it.”