State Health Officials Receive New Grant for Failing Onsite Sewage (Septic) Systems

March 26, 2019

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Sponsored by the Virginia Environmental Endowment and Smithfield Foundation

(RICHMOND, Va.) — The Virginia Environmental Endowment (VEE) created a $15.595 million grant program in 2018 designed to improve water quality in the James River watershed. This new James River Water Quality Improvement Program is guided by a strategic investment plan developed with the advice of a 30-member, broad-based advisory team and by an innovative conservation mapping tool designed specifically for the James River watershed by the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Conservation Innovation Center.

For the Program’s initial 2018 – 2019 grant cycle, VEE selected five strategies as priorities for investment.  One of the five strategies selected is a project submitted by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), which focuses on the remediation of illicit sewage discharges (such as “straight pipes”) and failing septic systems.

VDH received $300,000 from VEE, with an additional $200,000 from the Smithfield Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Smithfield Foods, Inc., for a total of $500,000. These funds will be used to repair failing septic systems and remediate illicit sewage discharges (straight pipes) from homes in the Yarmouth Creek and Morris Creek watersheds in James City County, the Pagan River and Lawnes Creek watersheds in Isle of Wight County and the Lawnes Creek watershed in Surry County. VDH’s primary objective is to help homeowners in these watersheds bring their systems into current regulatory compliance, thereby reducing total nitrogen and fecal coliform loads from each system.

The grant period runs for no more than three years (January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2021).  During the first year of the grant, funding is available to homeowners in the four, targeted watersheds with a household income of 200 percent or less of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) and a failing septic systems. If eligible, VDH can provide funding of 100 percent up to $18,000 for design services, construction costs and equipment needed to install a regulatory compliant sewage system.

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