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New Onsite Wastewater Systems Bring Iowa Town Into Compliance

February 21, 2011 |

Sandyville, Iowa
Failing wastewater systems in the small, low-income community.
Midwest Assistance Program (MAP) helped the community and county secure funding for new onsite wastewater systems, work out the details of funding, managing and maintaining the new systems.

Wastewater compliance is no longer a problem for the Sandyville city council. Approximately one-quarter of the town’s twenty-eight households has failed, non-compliant systems. Not so coincidentally, the same residents with failed systems were the lowest income residents.
In January of 2010, the Warren County environmental health specialist asked MAP to meet with the council and explain the USDA Rural Development 504 program. These grants are awarded to individual homeowners to solve safety and health problems. By the next council meeting, seven households were in the process of applying for the grants to replace their deficient onsite systems. MAP continues to assist with procurement of the systems to achieve group discounts and works to establish a good maintenance program to make onsite treatment a more long-term solution.
The city clerk reports that these onsite replacements will make the town fully compliant following installation.
The “great recession” has caused many Iowa small town city councils to reconsider additional debt for any reason. Unfortunately, needed water and wastewater projects are a public health problem and must be dealt with in bad times as well as good times. Good technical assistance with creative financing options can make projects affordable. Alternative onsite projects instead of a central sewer system, or the use of homeowners’ grants instead of community grants and loans, may serve to allow small towns to function through the tough economic environment. MAP’s innovative practices have kept many rural communities afloat and even generated growth where population loss was the trend.