According to Scottsboro Water, Sewer and Gas (SWSG) General Manager Jim Green, SWSG and the state of Alabama, in cooperation with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), entered into a settlement agreement as a result of a complaint letter issued by an environmental group called The Tennessee Riverkeepers. The original complaint and the basis for the settlement agreement revolve around the following NPDES permit violations that occurred between September 2011 and February 2016:
1. Sanitary sewer overflows in SWSG’s collection system
2. Fecal colifrom/E-coli maximum daily violations in the effluent discharge from SWSG’s wastewater treatment plant
3. Total suspended solids percent removal violations at the SWSG’s wastewater treatment plant
4. One late submission of a discharge monitoring report for the wastewater treatment plant.
As part of the settlement, SWSG agreed to address the issues of non-compliance by identifying the causes and completing corrective measures/repairs in a phased approach (Phase 1 and Phase 2).
Because the state received some $2.1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds to go toward infrastructure, with $225 million to fund water and sewer infrastructure, Green and his department went to ADEM and requested the necessary funds to improve and repair what needed to be done to prevent future violations and improve the system overall.
These improvements, first estimated in 2019 at almost $16 million, have since doubled due to inflation and supply issues. In order to update and improve the outdated and outgrown system, Green applied to the State for additional aid.
“We appreciate the city and the county and the State of Alabama and ADEM for giving us these ARPA funds; we really needed them. They have stepped in and helped us fill a void, and we really appreciate that,” Green stated. “I really do appreciate the teamwork. I don’t think we could have received such a large principal forgiveness amount without the help of everybody that was there. It’s a real team effort in our community, and we need to continue to do those kind of things.”
Governor Kay Ivey came to Scottsboro to personally award the grant on Friday, September 2, 2022.
Mayor Jim McCamy stated, “We deeply appreciate Governor Ivey and her support for infrastructure. This grant will help SWSG address existing challenges and be proactive in preventing issues in the future as we grow.”
For the remainder of the balance to complete these improvements and upgrades, funds will be coming through a Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF).
According to epa.gov, a CWSRF program is a federal-state partnership that provides communities low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects. The CWSRF was created by the 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act as a financial assistance program for a wide range of water infrastructure projects under 33 U.S. Code 1383. The program is a powerful partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states that replaces EPA’s Construction Grants Program. States now have the flexibility to fund a range of projects that address their highest priority water quality needs. The program was later amended in 2014 by the Water Resources Reform and Development Act.
Using a combination of federal and state funds, state CWSRF programs provide loans to eligible recipients to: construct municipal wastewater facilities; control nonpoint sources of pollution; build decentralized wastewater treatment systems; create green infrastructure projects; protect estuaries; and fund other water quality projects.
Building on a federal investment of $48.1 billion, the state CWSRF have provided $153billion to communities through 2021. States have provided 44,500 low-interest loans to protect public health, protect valuable aquatic resources and meet environmental standards benefiting hundreds of millions of people.
Epa.gov also states that under the CWSRF, EPA provides grants to all 50 states, and the states contribute an additional 20% to match the federal grants. The 51 CWSRF programs function like environmental infrastructure banks by providing low interest loans to eligible recipients for water infrastructure projects. As money is paid back into the state’s revolving loan fund, the state makes new loans to other recipients for high priority, water quality activities.
Repayments of loan principal and interest earnings are recycled back into individual state CWSRF programs to finance new projects that allow the funds to “revolve” at the state level over time.
States are responsible for the operations of the CWSRF program. Under the CWSRF, states may provide various types of assistance, including loans, refinancing, purchasing or guaranteeing local debt and purchasing bond insurance. States may also set specific loan terms, including interest rates from zero percent to market rate and repayment periods of up to 30 years. States have the flexibility to target financial resources to their specific community and environmental needs.
States may also customize loan terms to meet the needs of small and disadvantaged communities, or to provide incentives for certain types of projects. Beginning in 2009, Congress authorized the CWSRFs to provide further financial assistance through additional subsidization, such as grants, principal forgiveness and negative interest loans. Through the Green Project Reserve, the CWSRFs target critical green infrastructure, water and energy efficient improvements and other environmentally innovative activities.
You can view a presentation of how the CWSRF works in a presentation link found on epa.gov/learn-about-clean-water-state-revolving-fund-cwsrf.
by Martha Smith