HAYNEVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Federal and state officials on Friday marked the start of a $10 million project to repair and upgrade an Alabama community’s failing sewage system that has left residents struggling with pools of raw sewage in their homes to have.
The Hayneville project is being funded with funds given to the state by the American Rescue Plan — a portion of which was provided by state officials for much-needed water and sanitation projects — and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management and local officials signed the funding agreements for Infrastructure Act funding on Friday.
The people of Hayneville, a Lowndes County community of fewer than 1,000 people, have long lived with a poorly functioning sewage system, which causes sewage to flow back into their yards and homes. Hayneville Mayor Jimmie Davis said the sewage system is failing and the small town does not have the money to undertake this type of project.
“The city has significant wastewater and water needs that can directly impact the health and well-being of residents. Meeting these and other infrastructure needs in Lowndes County has been a priority for the department,” Lance LeFleur, director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, wrote in a statement.
About a third of the people of Hayneville live in poverty. The county’s plight has drawn the attention of national environmental and social rights activists, as well as federal and state officials.
The heads of the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Agriculture came to Lowndes County last year to announce a separate pilot program to help rural communities facing serious sewage problems like those in Hayneville. Many of the county’s residents are not connected to a central sewage system, and regular sewage systems often do not function properly due to the area’s dense soil.
Alabama lawmakers voted last year to use about $225 million from America’s bailout plan for water and sanitation projects. The state also used bailout funds to expand broadband and build prisons. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management also awarded the Department of Public Health $2.2 million for a demonstration project in Lowndes County that will use special sewage systems designed for the dense soil found in the Black Belt region.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced a 2021 environmental investigation into the county’s longstanding wastewater problems.