Jefferson County will receive $891,000 for water and sewer projects from the state as part of the funds Montana received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act—separate from the $2.37 million that ARPA sent directly to the county.
Currently, there are two water districts in the county that could use funding: Clancy and Basin.
Both districts have had a contentious year, with both entire boards resigning. Basin has a new board and the county commissioners are set to appoint a new Clancy Water and Sewer District board at their meeting on June 8.
“No decision yet as to where [funding] would go. Clancy has a much higher need right now but we’ll probably look at everything that may need funding,” Commissioner Cory Kirsch said.
This funding is separate from grants that are available for water and sewer projects across the state, according to Kirsch. Grant funding will also be available for water and sewer projects thanks to the ARPA funds.
Clancy is experiencing ongoing issues with water quality. A 2017 Montana Tech survey revealed nitrate and uranium levels exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant levels in some of Clancy’s wells. In the study, 37 percent of tested wells exceeded EPA uranium levels and 47 percent of wells had elevated nitrate levels, with 18 percent being above EPA maximum contaminant levels.
Elevated nitrates pose a health risk, especially to infants, who may experience methemoglobinemia, or blue baby syndrome, which reduces oxygen in the bloodstream and can be fatal. Uranium, according to Clancy’s 2018 Treasure State Endowment Program grant application, “can cause kidney damage and has been linked to cancer.”
The Clancy water project was estimated to cost $3 million. The CWSD has already obtained grants totaling about $2 million—leaving $1.1 million still needing to be funded.
“We are hoping most of it can be used to leverage other money in whatever project it goes towards,” Kirsch wrote regarding the funds.
Potentially, the $891,000 can be used as match money for one of the new grants for water and sewer infrastructure projects thanks to available ARPA funding.
House Bill 632, signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte on April 30, allocated more than $2 billion in stimulus money and created two water and sewer grants programs: a Competitive Grant Program and a Minimum Allocation Grant Program. Applications to the programs will be reviewed by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and recommended by the Infrastructure Advisory Commission. The committee will then decide which projects will be funded.
Kirsch previously stated that there is a greater chance of receiving grant funding if there are already matching funds available.