Rural Septic Tank Access Act Passes in Farm Bill Vote
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, December 12, the House of Representatives passed the Farm Bill in a bipartisan vote, including legislation sponsored by Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL) to address deteriorating wastewater infrastructure in rural communities. Known as the Rural Septic Tank Access Act (H.R. 5837), the legislation provides grants for the construction and repair of decentralized wastewater systems in underserved areas. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. The Farm Bill, including the Rural Septic Tank Access Act, now heads to the White House where it will be signed into law.
“Passage of the Rural Septic Tank Access Act is a huge victory for Alabama and for rural families across the country,” said Rep. Terri Sewell. “I have seen firsthand the economic, environmental, and health challenges created by failing sewer systems in Alabama. By investing in our rural communities and providing families with adequate resources to afford proper septic systems, the Rural Septic Tank Access Act takes an important step forward in our work to improve wastewater infrastructure in rural communities. As Congress considers bipartisan infrastructure reform in the new year, I will continue fighting for water and wastewater investments that protect our families’ health and our environment.”
“As a Farm Bill Conferee, I was proud to fight to include this language in the Farm Bill,” said Rep. Mike Rogers. “The Farm Bill is critically important to our state, and many Alabamians gain access to rural development and infrastructure through the Farm Bill. Rural America can’t be left behind, and this language ensures that folks in our districts and across America have a way forward from failing wastewater infrastructure.”
The Farm Bill’s Rural Septic Tank Access Act provision will expand the Household Water Well System Grant Program to provide grants of up to $15,000 for rural low- and moderate-income households to install or maintain individually-owned decentralized wastewater systems. This grant program would be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While there is no national study estimating the number of Americans with failing septic systems, estimates suggest that over a million families may face unsafe conditions as a result of inadequate rural wastewater systems.
In March, Rep. Sewell worked with House appropriators to secure $1.8 billion in additional funding for water and wastewater infrastructure under USDA as part of an omnibus spending bill. In Uniontown, Alabama, that funding is already at work. In November, USDA announced a $23.4 million grant to Uniontown to repair the city’s existing wastewater treatment plant and install new infrastructure.
Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) is serving her fourth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional district. She sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was recently appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Sewell is a Chief Deputy Whip and serves on the prestigious Steering and Policy Committee of the Democratic Caucus. She is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and serves as Vice Chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, and Vice Chair of Outreach for the New Democrat Coalition.