DOWNS, IL -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced a $70 million grant program to help smaller communities replace polluting septic systems with sewage treatment facilities.
“The runoff from aging individual septic tanks in some of our small rural communities is getting into nearby streams, causing pollution problems and potential public health hazards,” said Governor Ryan. “The Unsewered Communities Grant Program will focus on helping those smaller, low and moderate income communities that face enforcement from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency by requiring them to stop runoff that is polluting the environment.”
Funding for the program will come from the sale of bonds from the Build Illinois Bond Fund “Compliance Grant” program initiated in 1988. The existing bond authorization allows the Illinois EPA to make grants to communities whose water quality does not comply with existing laws because of inadequate wastewater facilities.
“The Illinois EPA’s Water Pollution Control low-interest revolving loan program has provided more than $1 billion to communities around the state to improve sewage and wastewater treatment infrastructure but some communities need additional help from the state. This program will let them move forward,” said Illinois EPA Director Renee Cipriano.
Governor Ryan announced the program in the McLean County community of Downs, which is facing Illinois EPA enforcement mandates to stop septic tank runoff pollution of a local stream.
“Governor Ryan has done more for small communities than any other governor in Illinois history and this is another great example,” said Downs Village President Jeff Schwartz.
Schwartz noted the estimated $1.6 million grant for which Downs would be eligible, along with low-interest state loans allowing construction of a sewage system, would also benefit the local Tri-Valley School District. The District estimated it would cost up to $300,000 to replace its septic system with one that would meet current environmental regulations. “That money can now go directly into classroom education, so this program is good not only for the environment but benefits our education system as well,” Schwartz noted.
Another community expected to benefit from the program is the McLean County community of Lexington, which is also currently facing enforcement deadlines from Illinois EPA. Lexington Mayor Frank Feigl was also present at today’s announcement.
Grants under the program will be capped at $5 million per community and the percentage amounts will range from 30 to 70 percent, based on household income levels.
Priority will be given to those communities facing enforcement deadlines from Illinois EPA because of ongoing pollution issues.