LYNCHBURG, Va. – The Lynchburg Legislative Delegation will head to Richmond, seeking millions of dollars in federal funding to fix the city’s combined sewer overflow system.
They’re asking for $50 million to not only take care of the multi-decade problem but also ease the burden on taxpayers’ wallets.
“When we first started this project 30 years ago, we knew it was big,” Sen. Steve Newman (R-Bedford) says.
With the recent ask for federal emergency aid from Gov. Ralph Northam, the end may be in sight. The federal funds are allowed to be used for water and wastewater projects, among other infrastructure.
“We’re about to do an undertaking,” Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg) says. “The city is agreeing to spend $25 million to finally complete this project, but we can’t forget that we’re spending money that we don’t have.”
The request is part of a $1.4 billion package to help fix sewage overflow in Lynchburg, Richmond and Alexandria. The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in early March.
The City of Lynchburg will be responsible for providing $25 million of the total amount, with the General Assembly asked to allocate $25 million of Virginia’s ARPA funds for the projects.
“The rate payers in Lynchburg have really paid the brunt of this problem,” Del. Wendell Walker (R-Lynchburg) says. “They have some of the highest water rates in the entire state of Virginia.”
State law requires yearly sewer bills to be at least 1.25% of the median household income. Right now, more than 4,500 households in Lynchburg are paying nearly three times that amount.
“This will help get us over the finish line and help us finish the project within the next five years,” Department of Water Resources Director Tim Mitchell says.
To date, since 1994, the City of Lynchburg has spent more than $300 million on the CSO Program.
The project would also improve water quality. Overflow pushes raw sewage and stormwater into the James River. The funding would help eliminate more than 95% of that.
City leaders will have a final answer on Aug. 2, after a Special Session in Richmond.