The Black Belt Unincorporated Wastewater Program (BBUWP) will provide onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems to an estimated 175 homes in the unincorporated areas of the Black Belt that currently have no proper wastewater disposal, poor soil conditions, and economic hardship; to include, homes with substandard onsite systems that are not working properly. This pilot project, to show how individual onsite systems can be managed, is funded by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Lixil Americas, and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). Lixil Americas is donating low flow fixtures for the project which will then be installed plumbers provided free of charge by IAPMO.
Each home site will be inspected by a Bureau of Environmental Services’ soil scientists, and from the soil results determination will be made concerning which sewage disposal treatment type will be installed – Conventional Onsite Wastewater System, Advanced or an Innovative Treatment Wastewater System. Low-flow fixtures will be installed as part of each system design to minimize treatment and disposal volume.
If selected, the property owner will agree to pay a one-time fee of $500.00 for a conventional system or $1,000.00 for an Advanced/Innovative Treatment System and a monthly fee of $20.00 per month for the life of the system for maintenance purposes.
One goal of this project is to provide necessary onsite wastewater treatment to a minimum of 175 homes in unincorporated areas of the Alabama Black Belt region to improve the health and quality of life for these residents and the local environment. Another goal of this project is to establish a best-practice model which shows other local government, management, and regulatory entities that effective management of individual onsite wastewater systems is possible.
In 2017, a representative from the United Nations visited Lowndes County, Alabama for a second time. On this visit, he commented that he had not previously seen such concerning wastewater conditions in a developed nation. After meeting with this U.N. Representative, the Alabama Department of Public Health became committed to addressing these issues.
The ADPH has observed the wastewater management struggles of the Alabama Black Belt region first hand. While ADPH is a regulatory entity that has no jurisdiction or state funds to install wastewater systems, they proposed this project to demonstrate a way for other county governments and management entities to develop viable onsite wastewater management.
In 2018 the Lowndes County Unincorporated Wastewater Program was established, with USDA support, to establish a best-practice model for addressing the wastewater struggles in the unincorporated areas of Lowndes County that could be replicated in other Alabama counties. Since then, the program has been expanded and renamed the Black Belt Unincorporated Wastewater Program.
Location: Unincorporated areas in the Black Belt region of Alabama.
Research: This demonstration project will establish and demonstrate the onsite wastewater management concept to local government, management, and regulatory entities. Some number of onsite wastewater systems being installed through the Black Belt Unincorporated Wastewater Program are being monitored and evaluated for treated effluent quality. These findings will be utilized in influencing future wastewater management improvement projects in the Alabama Black Belt.
Sherry Bradley MPA., Director, Alabama Department of Public Health
Steven Speaks PE/PLS, President, Larry E. Speaks & Associates, Inc.
Consortium for Alabama Water and Wastewater Treatment
University of South Alabama
International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials
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