Sewer problems can be a nightmare for homeowners and small businesses. They can cause health hazards, environmental damage, and property loss. Repairing or replacing a sewer system can be very costly and often requires professional assistance. Fortunately, there are some grants and financial help available for emergency sewer repair from various sources. In this article, we will introduce some of the funding options that you can explore if you need urgent help with your sewer system.
Federal Funding Sources
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are two federal agencies that offer grants and loans for water and wastewater projects, including emergency sewer repair. Some of their programs are:
- EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF): This program provides low-interest loans to eligible recipients for water infrastructure projects, including upgrade, repair, or replacement of existing sewer systems; construction or installation of new sewer systems; and costs associated with the establishment of a responsible management entity (RME). States are responsible for the operation of their CWSRF program and for selecting the projects that receive assistance. You can contact your CWSRF state representative to learn more about the application process and eligibility requirements1.
- EPA Nonpoint Source Section 319 Grants: This program provides grants to states to control nonpoint sources of pollution from a variety of sources, such as agricultural runoff, mining activities, and malfunctioning onsite septic systems. States use these funds to implement their nonpoint source management programs, which may include providing financial assistance to homeowners and small businesses for repairing or replacing their septic systems. You can contact your state nonpoint source coordinator to learn more about the availability and requirements of these grants2.
- USDA Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program: This program provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas. Funds may be used to finance the acquisition, construction or improvement of sewer systems. Public entities and nonprofit corporations in rural areas with a population of less than 10,000 people may be eligible. You can apply online at RD Apply or contact your local USDA Rural Development office for assistance3.
- USDA Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants (ECWAG): This program provides grant funds to rural communities at two levels: A maximum grant of $1,000,000 to communities with a significant decline in quantity or quality of drinking water due to an emergency; A maximum grant of $150,000 to make emergency repairs and replacement of facilities on existing systems. Emergencies include drought, earthquake, flood, tornado, hurricane, disease outbreak or chemical spill, leakage or seepage. Public entities and nonprofit corporations in rural areas with a population of less than 10,000 people and a median household income of no more than 100 percent of a state’s non-metropolitan median household income may be eligible. You can apply online at RD Apply or contact your local USDA Rural Development office for assistance.
State-specific Funding Sources
Some states may have their own funding sources for emergency sewer repair, such as state revolving funds, grants, loans, or tax credits. These funding sources may have different eligibility criteria, application procedures, and availability than the federal programs. You can check with your state environmental or health agency to find out what funding options are available in your state. For example:
- Ohio Water Pollution Control Loan Fund (WPCLF) offers communities financial assistance to help low-to moderate- income homeowners repair and replace failing home sewage treatment systems (HSTS).
- Oregon Septic System Loans for Homeowners and Small Businesses – Department of Environmental Quality partners with Craft3, a local nonprofit lender, to offer low-interest loans to help repair or replace failing septic systems.
- Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Program (Pennvest) provides low-cost financing for the design and construction of publicly and privately owned wastewater treatment facilities and collection systems.
Tribal Community Funding Sources
Tribal communities may also have access to some funding sources for emergency sewer repair, such as tribal set-asides from the CWSRF or the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), Indian Health Service (IHS) Sanitation Facilities Construction Program, or EPA Indian Environmental General Assistance Program (GAP). These funding sources may have different eligibility criteria, application procedures, and availability than the federal or state programs. You can check with your tribal environmental or health agency to find out what funding options are available for your tribal community. For example:
- EPA Tribal Set-Aside Program provides grants to federally recognized tribes and Alaska Native Villages from a portion of the CWSRF and DWSRF capitalization grants. These grants can be used to fund water infrastructure projects, including sewer system repair or replacement.
- IHS Sanitation Facilities Construction Program provides funding and technical assistance to American Indian and Alaska Native communities for the construction of safe water supply systems, sanitary sewage disposal systems, and solid waste disposal facilities.
- EPA GAP provides grants to federally recognized tribes and tribal consortia for planning, developing, and establishing environmental protection programs in Indian country.
Local Community Funding Sources
Local communities may also have some funding sources for emergency sewer repair, such as local revolving funds, grants, loans, or tax credits. These funding sources may have different eligibility criteria, application procedures, and availability than the federal, state, or tribal programs. You can check with your local environmental or health agency, utility provider, or municipality to find out what funding options are available in your local area. For example:
- New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) offers grants to eligible homeowners for the installation of approved backwater prevention valves on their sewer lines to prevent sewage backups during heavy rainstorms.
- Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts (LACSD) offers low-interest loans to property owners for the repair or replacement of damaged or defective sewer laterals that connect their buildings to the public sewer system.
- King County (Washington) Wastewater Treatment Division offers rebates to eligible homeowners for the installation of side sewer backflow prevention devices to protect their homes from sewer backups caused by heavy rainfall.
Emergency sewer repair can be a daunting and expensive task for homeowners and small businesses. However, there are some grants and financial help available from various sources that can ease the financial burden and help restore the sewer system to a safe and functional condition. Depending on the location, size, and type of the sewer problem, different funding options may be applicable and accessible. It is important to do some research and contact the relevant agencies or organizations to find out what funding sources are available and how to apply for them.