Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today announced that four municipalities have been awarded $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to accelerate efforts to eliminate combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in their cities and towns.
CSOs occur during intense or extreme storm events when stormwater runoff overwhelms sewer system capacity. Montpelier, Northfield, St. Johnsbury and Vergennes will each receive a portion of this $10 million. The four municipalities selected to receive initial funding will use these funds to implement high-priority projects identified in their long-term plan for controlling sewer overflows.
“Investing in sewer and stormwater infrastructure is a top priority for my administration, because it’s good for both our environment and the economy,” said Governor Scott. “Investments like this can be transformative for municipalities, and it’s exactly the type of initiative we should be pursing with the rare opportunity this one-time federal funding provides.”
The Governor has recommended a total of $30 million in ARPA funding to help Vermont municipalities fast-track planned sewer overflow reduction projects. These projects will decrease pollution in streams and lakes. $10 million was appropriated this year to support these projects, and additional funding is anticipated over the next three years.
Combined sewer systems collect sewage and stormwater in the same pipe before sending it to a wastewater treatment plant. CSOs work well under normal conditions, however, when strong storms hit, runoff from rain and snowmelt can overwhelms a system’s capacity. When this happens, system operators are forced to divert some of the untreated wastewater into lakes and rivers via outfall pipes to prevent sewage backups into basements or onto roadways. Eliminating discharges will improve the water quality of streams and lakes.
“Working with municipal partners, we’ve made great progress reducing combined sewer overflows, including eliminating more than 20 outfalls in the last three years alone,” said Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore. “However, climate change challenges that progress. We’re seeing more frequent, intense storms, increasing the urgency of making needed investments to upgrade this essential infrastructure and eliminate outfall points.”
Annual precipitation in Vermont has increased by almost seven inches over the past 50 years. With much of Vermont’s municipal wastewater infrastructure dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s, the systems were not built to withstand today’s extreme storms.
Since 1990, Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation has been working with municipalities to eliminate 75 percent of Vermont’s CSO outfall points, reducing the number from 178 to 44.
There are 11 municipalities that still have CSOs. Municipalities have invested millions of dollars since 1990 to control sewer overflows and meet water quality standards. It costs about $2.1 million to eliminate a single outfall.
“This work is extremely expensive. For several years, we’ve been planning a $20 million dollar project to fix Vergennes’ CSO and update our aging water resources recovery facility,” said Ron Redmond, Manager of the City of Vergennes. “This funding is a significant component of that very large package. The City can make serious and real progress, in an affordable manner, thanks to this award from Governor Scott.”
The first four municipalities selected for these awards were the highest-scoring projects in the 2022 Pollution Control Project Priority and Planning List; a process the State uses to award infrastructure grants as well as loans. Municipalities with existing CSOs and municipalities where CSOs have been abated but additional work remains are also eligible for funding and the State will be soliciting applications to the “Priority List” to inform the need for additional appropriations during the upcoming legislative session. These grants will complement existing local and state funding sources.
These awards are part of a larger package of ARPA funding available to Vermont municipalities, businesses, communities and individuals. The Agency of Natural Resources will distribute $100 million over the next three years to make investments in important water infrastructure projects that help protect and restore water quality across the state.
For more information about ARPA funds for CSOs, visit https://anr.vermont.gov/content/combined-sewer-overflow-cso-elimination-and-abatement
For more information on the funding available through the Agency of Natural Resources, please visit https://anr.vermont.gov/content/arpa-vermont.
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