Clanton receives ADEM funds for sewer upgrades

Published 10:33 am Friday, October 13, 2023

By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

The City of Clanton and Mayor Jeff Mims were informed this week that two long-awaited grants from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) are now available.

A week before Mims took office in October 2020, Hurricane Zeta hit the Gulf Coast and reached central Alabama still with powerful hurricane-force winds. All of the pump stations, or lift stations, in Chilton County that pump sewage up to another gravity-fed line that then leads to the main sewer plant lost power during the storm. The sewage backed up quickly, and it had to be dealt with immediately.

“The city had to pay a bunch of money to go get them all pumped out, and keep them pumped out until the power came back on at each (of the lift stations) and take them to the sewer plant,” Mims said.

The city applied for a grant through ADEM shortly after that to put generators and a propane tank at each of the lift stations to avoid losing power again in the future. This week, ADEM sent Mims a letter that the first grant the city applied for, $803,000, to address those upgrades was available and the projects can be put out for bid. It could take up to six months before the projects fully get underway, but the city now has the funds so it can start the process.

The $803,000 grant also includes software that will allow the city’s employees to check to see if the lift stations have power and are operating effectively with their phones.

At the moment, the city is having some employees drive to each lift station in the county each day of the week, including weekends, to make sure everything is working properly.

“If it is not working there is an alert that will come to their phone,” Mims said. “We are about to save all of that overtime because all our Utilities Director Stanley (Higgins) will have to do is look on the phone.”

The second grant ADEM announced was available for the city this week was for $5 million. The city applied for an $11 million grant, and ADEM said they would give the city $5 million and loan it the other $6 million at a very low interest rate of 2%. In many cases the loan is debt forgiveness, so the city could avoid paying it back entirely.

With the grant, the city plans to completely redo the over 40-year-old sewer plant to “increase the current sludge dewatering capacity, rehabilitate the existing return sludge pump station and rebuild both pumps to extend service life.”

“If we do (have to pay it back), it will not cost us a lot of money,” Mims said. “We have been waiting on this one for about two years, and all of this is going towards work at the sewer plant.”

The city did some repairs on the sewer plant last year, but the ADEM grant will help improve every facet of the plant to improve the performance and extend its life.

“In the winter time, the way the plant is set up right this minute, when it rains a lot it runs it to full capacity, and on a normal day we run it to about half capacity,” Mims said. “In the wintertime it runs it up high and puts a big stress on it, and with all of this money we are going to redo all of that to get it back up to par.”

The city is still waiting on the money from its third grant it applied for through ADEM, which is for the water pump station at the river. When they get the letter from ADEM like they did the first two projects, they will be able to put that project into motion as well.

The plan is to put two, new high-capacity water pumps in at the river with a new generator system to upgrade the city’s water system. The pumps will transport the water from the river to the treatment plant, and then to Peach Tower and the water tower on Airport Road, which are the only two water towers the city is using right now.

Mims said he is looking forward to having those funds come in from ADEM as well, but is excited they have started with the first two grants.

“It was a feeling of ‘Finally,’” Mims said. “That is stuff that we have been working on for a long time, and it is finally coming to fruition.”