By REBECCA HAZEN
Limestone Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council, based in Dade County, is offering a septic repair cost-share program for residents living within the Lookout Creek watershed.
The funding is provided by a Clean Water Act grant from Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
“Several years ago, we wrote a management plan identifying ways to improve Lookout Creek, as Lookout Creek is listed for impairments. I say that with the caveat of, it does not mean that the water is not safe, it just means it needs improvement,” Stephen Bontekoe, Executive Director of Limestone Valley, said.
Bontekoe continued, “This is our second round of funding. We did a three-year grant and helped people with septic repairs and agricultural best management practices. That went well, so we applied for more funding.”
According to limestonevalley.org, “Limestone Valley RC&D has a long-standing Clean Water Act Section 319 grant management program that is known to be one of the best in the State of Georgia. With several current Clean Water Act Section 319 nonpoint source pollution reduction grants through Georgia Environmental Protection Division, Limestone Valley is always working on building effective partnerships, conducting extensive water quality sampling and occasional fish and macroinvertebrate sampling, putting water quality improvement projects ‘on-the-ground’, and educating the public on watershed science and the importance of water quality.”
“This is all watershed based. It doesn’t cover all of Dade County, but it covers anything that drains into Lookout Creek. I like to say it covers brow to brow. From the west brow of Lookout Mountain to the east brow of Sand Mountain,” Bontekoe said.
The grant will cover typically 40 percent of the repairs, and the landowner covers 60 percent. There are situations where a lesser amount will be paid, such as for rental properties, and it is not a primary residence.
The homeowner will get a contractor to do the work, and the contractor must be on a list of approved state certified septic contractors. Throughout the whole process, the applicants are in touch with Limestone Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council.
“Septic systems carry different pathogens. Nobody wants to get sick from E.coli, and E.coli could be transferred to the stream from leaky septics and such. Repairing the septic systems reduces the amount of E.coli transmission and potential pathogens that could be contributing to adverse effects in the streams. From the human health standpoint, it’s a good thing,” Bontekoe said.
Bontekoe encouraged residents to apply for the funding as soon as possible.
“There is limited funding, and we have spent a large portion of it already. We have already done 20 plus repairs in Dade County. Once the funds are exhausted, they are exhausted,” Bontekoe said.
Limestone Valley Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The organization was formerly federally funded (along with all RC&D Councils) under the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), yet due to recent budget cuts is now a stand-alone non-profit group.
The mission of the organization is “to enhance the communities within our 11-county area by promoting conservation, water quality improvement, natural resource education and sustainable agriculture.”
The council serves Dade, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Gordon, Murray, Pickens, Walker and Whitfield counties.
For more information about the grant, visit Limestonevalley.org/septic.