$2.5 million grant awaits final approval

(Editor’s note: This story ran in last week’s paper with an incorrect headline and information within the story. The article stated the Marion County Public Water Authority had already received a $2.5 million grant. However, the grant still has to go through a Congressional approval process, and therefore, the water authority does not have the grant yet nor does not know if the grant will come through. The story in its corrected form is here. The Journal Record apologizes for the mistake.)

HAMILTON — The Marion County Public Water Authority is awaiting final congressional approval to be the recipient of a requested $2.5 million grant from Senator Tommy Tuberville’s office through the earmark process to go toward upgrading drinking water infrastructure in rural Marion County.
Proposed congressional funding bills such as this one will  be voted on in December, although that date could fluctuate.
Tuberville’s spending request has not been approved yet, but his office said in a statement that he will be “fighting to secure as much funding for vital Alabama projects of merit as possible.”
Tuberville started as a Senator in 2021, but opted not to participate in the earmark process, which gives the congressman access to funds he can use for projects like this after he voiced concerns over past abuse.
This year, Tuberville chose to participate, and if his proposed earmarks are approved by Congress in December, then the $2.5 million grant will go toward a water authority project that will give more people in rural Marion County access to safe, clean drinking water.
The water authority will match $200,000 if they are approved to receive the funds.
“The Marion County Public Water Authority is a rural water authority designed to supply potable drinking water, and water for fire protection, to citizens in rural areas of the county,” the water authority said in their grant application, written by water authority general manager Jan Cummings. “This project will extend public water service to residents in rural Marion County who are not connected to a sanitary water supply.
“The authority currently has approximately 800 rural homes in Marion County who do not have access to a potable public water source. These 800 houses actually equate to over 2,500 citizens awaiting water service.”
In the application, Cummings went into detail about the contaminants in the water that could pose a health risk to anyone who drinks it.
“In some instances, multiple households are connected to a single well or spring which may contain dangerous coliform bacterial contamination,” she said. “Testing has detected E. Coli bacteria in some of the water tested, which is likely caused by leaching from personal septic sources and runoff from agriculture activity.”
Another risk to those not connected to public water is the uncertainty of a well’s water supply.
“During times of drought or little rainfall, these personal water sources get extremely low or dry up completely, requiring the residents to haul water for household needs and purchase bottled drinking water,” Cummings explained.
Cummings said that while this grant won’t be enough to cover everyone in rural Marion County, it would still go a long way to serve many households that don’t have access to clean water.
“This authority currently serves 1,200 households, but we still have over 800 to go,” she said. “This grant will serve approximately 100 households.”
Cummings also explained why this grant needs to be approved.
“It seems unheard of in the year of 2023, that there are citizens who do not have access to a potable public water source,” she said. “Rural citizens most often fall in the lower income categories and are unable to replace failing wells and springs. There are elderly citizens in this service area who do not currently have any source of water and rely on family to haul or purchase water for them.”
According to the water authority, the 88 households that would receive water are located on County Roads 26, 97 and 93 in the southwest portion of the county. On top of drinking water, water lines would also make firefighting much easier by allowing for fire hydrants in the area.
According to the water authority’s statement, this is part of a comprehensive plan to eventually serve the entire county. The water authority estimates the project should be completed in less that 300 calendar days from the time it begins, if the grant is approved.

See complete story in the Journal Record.
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