Fayette gets emergency water grant from USDA
Continued drought creates contaminated water supply; town gets funding to drill new well
FAYETTE—As part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Earth Day celebration, the Rural Development Agency is providing Fayette with $441,000 in emergency water assistance funding to replace a contaminated well.
Rural Development acting state director KayLyn Nerby announced the emergency funding on Wednesday, April 19.
“No community is immune to the problems that accompany years of drought,” said Nerby. “This assistance is in place to ensure that even our smallest communities like Fayette have reliable and safe drinking water.”
According to Fayette Mayor LaMar Bartholomew, Fayette has relied on its spring and two wells for a water source until the drought caused water levels to lower.
“We noticed the aquifer wasn’t building itself back up as it had in the past three years ago,” Bartholomew said. “Last year it didn’t build back up at all and this year has been the worst we’d ever had.”
The emergency grant might not have been necessary if it had just been a case of reduced water supply; but it was worse than that.
“We test the water every week,” Bartholomew said. “When we start getting tests come back contaminated with E. Coli and other things, and we immediately had an engineer come in to assess our options.”
According to Bartholomew, the contamination was coming from animals drinking the spring water (which is drawn to the surface with pumps when the aquifer is too low to push it out).
With the aquifer levels lowered, it lost positive pressure, and the animal contaminants and rain runoff were being pulled into the water table and leaving the shallower of the town’s two wells contaminated. Currently, only one of the town’s water sources is operating uncontaminated by harmful agents.
Bartholomew said some of the options engineers came up with were far beyond the town’s ability to fund. It soon became clear the only viable option was to drill a new well deep enough to remain unaffected by contamination. But the town still needed help with the funds to pull it off.
“We had to find a way to bring plenty of clean water back,” Bartholomew said. “Without water, there’s no reason to stay here in Fayette in the first place.”
Fayette Town leadership reached out to the Rural Development Agency to see if they could help. After some deliberation, the USDA decided to award Fayette a grant under the Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant program as part of the organization’s Earth Day celebrations.
“Every year for Earth Day, we pick a water project to fund that is a big deal, and that will be beneficial to the community,” said Jaro. “Something that will continue to make living possible in these rural areas. We thought Fayette would be a perfect fit.”
The Rural Development Agency awarded Fayette with a grant for the full estimated cost of the project, $441,000.
“This is a little special because often these grants need a matching amount from the city,” Jaro said.
Bartholomew told the USDA representatives that the town greatly appreciated the funding help, and without it, residents would be left high and dry.
Vice Mayor Janice Bown told the USDA representatives, “The survival of our community depends completely upon the return of our water supply.”
Bartholomew agreed, saying, “We are dependent entirely on this underground water. We have to keep it viable and clean for our children and grandchildren.”
The new well is planned to be drilled away from the contaminated areas, and Bartholomew says the city hopes to have the new well under construction by August or sooner.