Metro receives $2.5 million in federal infrastructure dollars to address sewer issues

Metro Moore will use the federal dollars, in part, to address infiltration and inflow woes in MUD’s system caused by ground water and storm water seeping into local sewer pipes. (File Photo)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — On Tuesday, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced 12 communities in the state that will receive grants to improve water utility infrastructure and Metro Moore County is among them. According to TDEC press release, Metro Moore County will receive $2,509,310 to make improvements to the wastewater system that will reduce inflow and infiltration. Metro Lynchburg Moore County will also develop a drinking water Asset Management Plan to investigate distribution lines that need correction. Those repairs will significantly reduce water loss and increase pressure for existing customers.

Metro Moore received their approval letter last Monday, according to MUD Director Russell Sells during Tuesday night’s MUD Board meeting. That letter states that all works related to the grant must be completed no later that’s September 2026.

This grant money will add to the $2.5 million MUD recently borrowed from the State Revolving Fund loan, according to the release. That money is being used for phase one of the Sewer Rehab Project that is currently underway in the county.

The new grant will be funded with Tennessee’s portion of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a federal plan intended to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its lingering affects on public health and the economy in American counties across the U.S. Funds were allocated based on population size. Today’s announcement represents 12 grants totaling $34,585,121 from the state’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) fund that follow six additional grants totaling $37,910,909 in August. In total, Tennessee’s received $72.4 million in ARP dollars.

Tennessee received $3.725 billion from the ARP, and the state’s Financial Stimulus Accountability Group dedicated $1.35 billion of those funds to TDEC to support water utility projects in communities throughout Tennessee. Of the $1.35 billion, approximately $1 billion was designated for non-competitive formula-based grants offered to counties and eligible cities. The remaining funds will go to state-initiated projects and competitive grants.

In addition to Metro Moore County, TDEC announced grants for Sumner County, the Town of Farragut, the City of White House, the City of Lewisburg, Rutherford County, Germantown, Johnson City, the City of Millington, the City of Loudon, City of Livingston, and the City of Mitchellville.

“We are grateful to the local applicants, and we anticipate excellent results from these grants,” said TDEC Commissioner David Salyers. “This shows that Tennessee recognizes the need for improved water infrastructure and is committed to helping communities meet that need.”

Dollars spread across three projects

In Moore County, the $2.5 million grant will fund three related projects. Around $2 million will fund phase two of the sewer rehab project. Phase one is currently underway in the county. Both are meant to address local water utility systems infiltration and inflow woes in Metro Moore County, according to MUD Director Russell Sells.

Commonly referred to as I and I (i/I), the issue revolves around groundwater seeping into sewer pipes (infiltration) through holes, cracks, joint failures, and faulty connections as well as storm water (inflow) rapidly flowing into sewers roof drain downspouts, foundation drains, storm drain cross-connections, and through holes in manhole covers. i/I issues are usually caused by aging infrastructure, according to Director Sells, but need to be addressed because it can overload the local system and potentially cause sewer back ups.

Reducing i/I will also benefit the lifespan of the new waste waste water plant MUD constructed in 2015.

Director Sells stated that MUD decided to use the grant to fund phase two of the sewer rehab project in part to avoid passing along those costs to the 311 sewer rate payers in the county. Those customer exist in the Urban Services District, outlined by the former Lynchburg city limits footprint that existed prior to our community’s Metro status. Only those citizens who live in that district pay sewer rates to MUD. Rural customers use septic tanks.

The remaining dollars will be used to develop a drinking water Asset Management Plan and rehabilitate distribution lines to reduce significant water loss and increase pressure for existing customers. According to MUD, they will pay for the water model and pressure studies needed to identify approximately 40,000 linear feet of water line upgrades to determine “where the most bang for the buck” will be in the local system.

Director Sells also explained that water line changes can cause a trickle down effect to nearby rate payers, so it’s important to use modeling to avoid unintended consequences.

The ARP Grant will now move to the Metro Council because Metro Moore County and not the Metro Utilities Department is the official recipient of the federal dollars. It appears on the agenda for Monday night’s Metro Council meeting, which takes place at 6:30 p.m. at the former American Legion Building. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently-owned, community newspaper located in Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of The Jack Daniel Distillery. We focus on public service, non-partisan, rural journalism. We cover the Metro Moore County government, local tourism, Moore County schools, high school sports, Motlow State Community College, as well as whiskey industry news and regional and state stories that affect our readers.}