ADEM approves first of grant funds for Butler County water, sewer improvements

Published 2:17 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2022

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Butler County residents will soon enjoy the benefits of water and sewer improvements funded by $122 Million in Alabama Department of Environmental Management grant dollars awarded to Alabama’s Blackbelt Counties.

ADEM approved the first monies for release and to date has signed off on a $409,300 Town of McKenzie’s project upgrading the town’s water meters and agreed to match $1,121,000 to fund Greenville’s $2,242,000 sewer system improvements.

According to McKenzie Town Clerk LeAnne Waters, grant dollars will purchase new electronic meters, which the town hopes to install early in 2023 for roughly 410 McKenzie residents in the service area. The new meters, she said, will save customers money in monitoring costs and leak detection.

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“The new system will be able to detect if it sees a leak or high usage,” Waters explained. “Then we can get in contact with our resident and say, ‘Hey, you know our system has detected a higher-than-normal use. Are you using water?’”

ADEM grant funds will help fund improvements for the City of Greenville’s sewer systems. Greenville Water Works and Sewer Board Superintendent Kristopher Findley said the monies, matched by Greenville’s own tax dollars, will help the board clear roadways to access sewer lines and install cameras which can detect line issues.

The city will also install new fiberglass pipe lining to reinforce existing sewer lines and provide a more reliable system for more than 8,000 Greenville customers.

“Given the age and the location of the existing lines, they’re subject to root intrusion from mature trees,” Findley described. “That line has been in the ground for 40 or 50 years. So, it gets brittle over time, and you can have issues with reduction in flow. The new lines will reduce costs for treating rainwater which can seep in through old lines and will improve the system’s ability to more effectively carry sewage away from homes for treatment.”

And the nearly invisible improvements, Findley noted, will stabilize the system for many years to come.

“People want their sewer system to be out of sight, out of mind, but they want it to work properly,” said Findley. “This [upgrade] ensures you can count on [the system] for another 40 or 50 years. So, I think I think they’ll notice [benefits] because there won’t be any issues.”

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 in the region’s public water and sewer systems.

The ADEM grants are designed to address the significant repairs and upgrades necessary 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.”