Galax applies for $1 million grant

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By April Wright, Reporter

The City of Galax has applied for the Southern Rivers Water Quality Grant in hopes of being approved by the General Assembly to receive a $1 million grant — the maximum amount offered — to make improvements to a Galax and Carroll County sewer line, the Mill Creek interceptor.

The grant is part of the Southern Rivers Watershed Enhancement Program. The General Assembly has allocated $17 million to improve water quality in non-Chesapeake Bay watersheds.

The estimated cost to repair the line is $2 million, including property acquisition if needed for an equalization basin.

Galax City Council resolved on Jan. 14 to take out a loan from the Virginia Revolving Loan Fund, or issue revenue bonds at a later time, to cover the other $1 million that the grant wouldn’t pay.

Galax City Manager Keith Holland said this is a wonderful opportunity for the city, and this grant hasn't been available before. The current sewer line "limits further real estate development on the east side of Galax,” said Holland. The improved line "will provide better health benefits, and it could increase economic development.”

The Mill Creek interceptor, extending from East Galax into Carroll County, is recognized as a top priority due to its overflows during heavy rain events and contaminated waters in the late 1990s. It serves 840 customers.

However, Holland said no one’s health is in danger from the line. The city was placed under a consent order by the Environment Protection Agency to reduce overflow and develop a program to address the problems. Since then, the city has made minor repairs.

The city has wanted to restore the line, but it lacked the means to do so.

The grant provides the opportunity to construct a new line. The construction will enlarge the capacity, eliminating discharge and making land available for real estate development.

The line is also needed to handle additional overflow from Carroll County’s Gladeville and Cranberry areas, where the county pumps sewage to the city for treatment.

Holland estimated that if the city is approved for the grant, construction would be complete late this year or early 2009. The city will know if it is approved for the grant by March.

Holland said the construction shouldn't be a disturbance to neighbors.