The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has awarded $348 million in grants and loans to repair and upgrade water and sewer systems in Alabama, with more awards to come.
Of the $348 million awarded, $77 million is headed to the communities in Alabama’s Black Belt, where the combination of nonpermeable soil, low population density and low incomes creates special challenges. The grants going into the Black Belt do not have to be paid back and do not require a local match. Also, that area will receive an additional $45 million in grants, bringing the total investment there to $122 million.
“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,” said Lance LeFleur, director of ADEM.
In a special session in January, the Alabama Legislature approved spending $225 million to help public water and sewer systems with infrastructure needs. These funds came out of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
ADEM is supplementing the $225 million with other federal and state funds. Over the next five years, the department expects to receive $765 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress last year, and is combining that with $111 million in grants and loans through the State Revolving Fund. The department expects to commit $473 million this year to water and sewer system infrastructure.
Nearly half of the state’s 1,061 public water and sewer systems submitted requests for projects totaling more than $3.2 billion. As of Sept. 15, ADEM had awarded funding to systems in 48 of Alabama’s 67 counties.
In the Black Belt, of the $77 million in grants already approved, four are going to water and sewer systems in Lowndes County. The town of Hayneville is receiving more than $10 million for sewer projects and almost $2.9 million for drinking water projects, while the town of Lowndesboro will receive $1 million and the Lowndes County Water Authority will receive $735,000 for drinking water projects.
The Legislature also designated $5 million from the $225 million in ARPA funds for demonstration sewer projects in the Black Belt to address problems that have plagued families for generations. From that money, ADEM awarded $2.2 million to the Department of Public Health for projects using special septic systems, and $2.8 million to the University of South Alabama for a cluster system demonstration project in Hale County.
“We make no pretense that we can satisfy all the water and sewer infrastructure needs in the state of Alabama,” LeFleur 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.”