Preliminary steps have been taken to ensure residents in unincorporated areas of Liberty County have access to clean drinking water, but a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan and grant must first be approved for a rural water system to be put in place.
During a Tuesday evening meeting, the Liberty County Commission approved a proposal to be submitted by P.C. Simonton & Associates Inc. for a $1.1 million loan and a $3.2 million grant, which would allow the county to install a system to provide water to residents with shallow
“The plan [to do this] has been approved by USDA; the funding approval is the last remaining task,” said Matthew Barrow, P.C. Simonton & Associates, Inc. vice president and civil engineer. “The situation is not life-threatening. It is just a quality-of-life issue.”
County Administrator Joey Brown said the issue came up a few years ago when residents complained about water issues in the Holmestown and Screven Fork communities.
A study conducted with the University of Georgia identified some contamination issues in the drinking water and after residents complained, the project was pursued, Brown said. The UGA study was funded by the Coastal Incentive Grant program.
“It was a gamut of things that ranged from bad wells pumping contaminants in to wells being too close to septic tanks,” Brown said of residents’ problems. “There were several issues there.”
The county administrator said he is uncertain about what residents are doing in the meantime for clean water.
The USDA loan and grant would allow residents to connect, free of charge, to a clean-water system. The usage would be reflected in the residents’ water bills. The loan would be repaid through customer bills.
Because the proposal has not yet been accepted by the USDA, Brown isn’t sure about a timetable.
Residents who chose to go with the new rural water system and pay for usage on their water bills will eliminate the need to spend extra money on the electricity it takes to run a pump for private wells.
The next step will be for Barrow to submit the proposal on behalf of the commissioners. The USDA is expected to verify the material and approve it if funds are available. Barrow
said if the project is not accepted for this fiscal year, it likely will move into the next fiscal cycle for consideration.
“I think we have met our goal of trying to keep this cost as low as possible for the consumers and with all of the different aspects and benefits that are presented to them through cost savings of insurance, electric [and the] use of the well,” Barrow said. “I think it will be a beneficial project for the residents.”