CANTON — A $300,000 grant awarded to St. Lawrence County will help an estimated 30 low-income households repair or replace deficient septic systems.

The county’s Planning Office applied for the money through the state’s Community Development Block Grant program and was recently notified it was successful.

John F. Tenbusch, a county planner, said the funds can be awarded to households throughout the county, regardless of whether the home is near a waterway that’s been shown to be contaminated by sewage.

The CDBG program is run by the state’s Office of Community Renewal.

“Work can involve repair or replacement of the household wastewater system including the septic tank, leach field, piping, etc.,” Mr. Tenbusch said.

The septic tank has to be for a person’s primary residence and there are income limits. The county’s larger communities have municipal sewage systems, but an estimated 50 percent of the county’s population lives in homes with septic systems, Mr. Tenbusch said.

“Our housing stock is old, so I can only assume that the septic systems are old,” he said.

Defective septic systems can leak sewage into groundwater or nearby lakes or rivers. In some cases, the sewage can pool at or near the ground surface.

“As you get more and more pressure on an older system, you get more problems,” Mr. Tensbusch said.

In 2013 the Planning Office secured $1 million in funding from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Environmental Facilities Corp. in response to sewage contamination found in Black Lake.

That funding provided income-eligible homeowners either $10,000 or 50 percent of their expenses, whichever was lower, to fix or replace their septic tanks.

That money was available to people who lived in watershed areas.

Mr. Tenbusch said some of those who applied could not afford to pay their 50 percent share.

The newest grant can help fill that gap because people can receive funding from both grants, he said.

“This is designed to work with our earlier $1 million grant. If people are low-income they can qualify for both,” he said.

Clients secure cost bids from a list of qualified contractors.

“They can get a bid from a contractor who is not on our list, but that contractor needs to sign up for our contractor list. We require multiple bids,” Mr. Tenbusch said.

Over the past 30 years, St. Lawrence County has been awarded about $28 million in CDBG grants, mostly for housing upgrades.

To qualify for the septic tank funding, one-person households can earn up to $36,050 a year; two-person, $41,200; three-person, $46,350; four-person, $51,450; five-person, $55,600; six-person, $59,700; seven-person, $63,800 and eight-person, $67,950.

Applications for the funding are being handled by the North Country Housing Council, 19 Main St., which can be reached at 315-386-8576.


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