Partnership sponsors septic tank maintenance for low-income households

Published 7:24 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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A new partnership between two local organizations aimed at tackling Lowndes County wastewater disposal disparities will soon bolster services for low-income households.

The joint effort is a collaboration between the Organized Community Action Program (OCAP) and the Black Belt Unincorporated Wastewater Program (BBUWP) aimed at supporting families by helping meet the cost of ongoing septic system maintenance.

“OCAP has donated money to BBUWP which is earmarked for clients already on our program,” said Sherry Bradley, executive director for BBUWP. “Sometimes people can’t pay the $20 [per month maintenance fee.]”

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Bradley explained that septic systems, once installed, require regular maintenance to keep them working properly. Around 40 households, clients who have received systems through BBUWP and others with existing systems in need of maintenance, will benefit from the donation intended to cover fees for customers who cannot otherwise afford the needed maintenance.

Isaiah Scott, planner for OCAP’s service area, said the donation represents the core of what the community action program does — helping families.

“OCAP has made a donation to BBUWP to help low-income families in the community, to aid them with their maintenance fees. This is literally the wheelhouse of our mission, to help move these families to self-sufficiency.”

Scott noted that OCAP board chairman Brenson Crenshaw is a Lowndes County native who understands the severity of Lowndes County’s wastewater disposal issues and the barriers residents face in alleviating the problem.

“[Crenshaw] identified the need,” Scott said. “He has been working alongside Ms. Sherry for the longest and so, he said this is something we need to make happen.”

The 40 families receiving help have been identified already and BBUWP has ensured they qualify for assistance, Scott said. Fees for these families are sponsored for one year, and BBUWP received half of the funding earlier in May and expects the rest in October.

Installation of septic systems in qualifying homes if free through BBUWP due to grant funding, said Bradley. This partnership will further serve Lowndes County families by helping them keep systems running at top performance.

“We’ve looked at why some of the existing systems are not working and that’s because of maintenance,” Bradley said. “These systems go in the ground, out of sight and out of mind. For families on our program, we want to provide maintenance. Families pay $20 a month and BBUWP subsidizes the rest.

“Now we can help the ones who can’t afford the fee. I have clients in their 80s and 90s. They just don’t have the funding. But I also have younger people [who pay] but I have received money orders and checks that have bounced. This local organization has stepped up to the plate.”

Scott said there are also possibilities for continued partnership as OCAP assesses community needs and strives to meet them.”