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Centreville Gets EPA Grant of Nearly $1M to Fix Flooding

The $919,869 grant is awarded to HeartLands Conservancy and will be used to develop a community-based watershed plan that will help fix sewage system infrastructure and eliminate stormwater runoff in the three towns.

by DeAsia Paige, Belleville News-Democrat / March 24, 2021
TNS
(TNS) - Mar. 24—The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday announced a grant designed to address flooding and sewage issues in Cahokia, Alorton and Centreville.
 
The $919,869 grant is awarded to HeartLands Conservancy and will be used to develop a community-based watershed plan that will help fix sewage system infrastructure and eliminate stormwater runoff in the three towns, according to a press release.
 
Alorton, Centreville and Cahokia will merge to become the new city of Cahokia Heights after the April 6 municipal election.
 
Tuesday's announcement follows Gov. Pritzker's public acknowledgment of Centreville's flooding issues, in which he pledged his administration's support of the problem. Earlier this month, Gov. Pritzker endorsed a $22 million FEMA grant that drew applications from the three towns to help fund upgrades to the failed sewer system.
 
"The persistent flooding and sewage local residents have experienced are entirely unacceptable, especially in a pandemic when home has never been more sacred," Pritzker said in Tuesday's press release. "The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has already submitted a $22 million grant request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency that prioritizes funding and fixing the situation that has been allowed to fester in this community for too long — and I'll use every tool at my disposal as governor to push FEMA to give this project the support it deserves."
 
Flooding and raw sewage are common problems for residents in north Centreville. For decades, residents in that area are forced to deal with homes that become inundated with floodwater whenever there's moderate to heavy rainfall, with minimal help from local government.
 
The issue has led to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Centreville residents against the city and other local entities for failure to address the problem.
 
The IEPA has met with residents and have attended meetings over the past months to provide solutions for fixing the issue. Earlier this month, IEPA director John Kim was a panelist during a virtual town hall aimed at hearing from residents and other stakeholders about best ways to approach those solutions.
 
"Illinois EPA is pleased to award this grant to begin to provide the residents of Cahokia Heights with assistance in the development and implementation of a watershed-based plan, projects to the reduce the impacts of stormwater, and fixes of minor sewer system infrastructure problems," Kim said. " Heartlands Conservancy has experienced staff with the requisite knowledge to be able to work with residents and other local watershed stakeholders."
 
HeartLands Conservancy, a Belleville-based organization, will work with residents, businesses and organizations in the area to develop a watershed plan and other practices that'll help reduce stormwater runoff. This is the 10th plan that HeartLands has worked on in southwestern Illinois. Additionally, the conservancy will collaborate with residents along with state and local partners to determine the best location for those plans.
 
Sen. Christ Belt (D- Centreville) also announced his support of the plan and vowed to do whatever is possible to fix the issue. His involvement in addressing Centreville's flooding issues has been questioned by some residents in the area, given that he hasn't participated in any meeting with residents.
 
Belt was absent from the virtual town hall meeting earlier this month even though he was invited.
 
"Since taking office, I have worked with the governor to ensure that the challenges my community faces due to sewage backups are addressed," said Sen. Belt in the press release. "This nearly $1 million in funding to address those challenges is a step in the right direction. I will continue to do everything I can to make sure this issue is alleviated, and I believe the governor shares that mission."
 
The budget for the project is $1,019,391, with IEPA providing $919,869 in grant funds and HeartLands Conservancy and project partners matching with $99,522.
 
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(c)2021 the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.)
 
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