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Maddox: Ivey ignoring federal help for sewage crisis

October 23, 2018

UNIONTOWN, Ala. (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial challenger Walt Maddox said Tuesday that it is “shameful” the state has not provided its share of funds to fix a wastewater crisis in poverty-stricken Uniontown, where half-treated sewage spills into waterways.

Maddox and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones held a news conference Tuesday in Uniontown, where the city’s troubled sewage system regularly overflows. Maddox said nearly $30 million in federal funds are available to address the problem, but officials from Gov. Kay Ivey’s administration have “indicated they are not interested in funding” $3 million in required matching funds. Jones said bipartisan support in Congress secured the money, but the “money will be lost if the governor doesn’t act very, very soon.”

“For Uniontown, this is shameful and tragic,” Maddox said.

Ivey told al.com Tuesday that she met with U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell about the project, but said the state had not received a grant proposal from Uniontown.

“I understand the nature of (Shelby’s and Sewell’s) request but at the same time it’s a large, large project, about $13,500 per resident. That’s huge and so you want to be sure that funding goes and gets good, long-lasting results,” Ivey told al.com.

Ivey spokesman Daniel Sparkman said the governor believes this project “should be done in phases.”

Maddox said Tuesday that Ivey’s administration has been handing out grant checks “like Skittles” for other projects.

“For years this community has been living under the shadow of a failed sewage system that’s been spilling tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of gallons of half-treated sewage into Free Town Creek, ultimately into Gee’s Bend, ultimately into the Alabama River,” Maddox said.

In Alabama’s Black Belt region, poverty, crumbling infrastructure and soil conditions combine to cause problems of standing and overflowing sewage that at times has drawn international attention. A United Nations delegation visited nearby Lowndes County to learn about the area’s sanitation issues. Many homes are not connected to functioning sewer systems. Uniontown has a sewage system but it is one that has been plagued with problems for years.

Jones said the federal dollars are the best chance of addressing the issue in Uniontown.

“Where are the people of Uniontown going to get $30 million to do it?” he asked.

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