Leon River Watershed

Leon River Watershed Coordinator Mike Marshall reviews diagrams Friday of on-site sewage systems — septic tanks — for a state grant program.

GATESVILLE — Coryell County residents can get technical and financial help to repair or replace failing on-site sewage facilities — septic tanks — within the Leon River watershed under a state grant program approved by county commissioners last week.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality grant program will provide $84,000 to fix or replace up to 21 failing septic systems at a maximum of $4,000 per system, said Mike Marshall, the Leon River watershed coordinator who is applying for the grant.

The county will provide in-kind matching in the way of support staff, Marshall said, and will not need to allocate county money for the program.

Some salary and expenses of the county judge’s secretary and the county environmental officer could count toward the county’s share of the program, he said.

Because some of the failing septic systems will only need “tweaking,” Marshall said, the grant money could probably cover up to 30 systems in the watershed.

Marshall is charged with implementing the Leon River watershed protection plan aimed at removing the watershed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s “impaired” list by reducing the fecal coliform bacteria load in the river.

One pollutant source identified as impacting the water quality in the Leon watershed, Marshall said, is failing on-site septic systems.

The 2000 U.S. census estimated 5,800 on-site septic systems in the watershed, Marshall said, and at least 10 percent of these systems were considered failing.

In 2009, a survey and evaluation of on-site septic systems by the Coryell County Attorney’s office identified the need for maintenance improvements, repairs or replacement for select homes in Leon Junction, Flat and select subdivisions around Gatesville, Marshall said.

Marshall said he will work closely with Greg Pitts, the county environmental officer, to identify which systems should take priority under the program.

“Part of the priority will be affordability,” Marshall said. “We will target systems that are close to the Leon River and are affordable” for repair.

Failing systems located within a floodplain will be the No. 1 priority, Marshall said, and the program will cover the full cost of repair or replacement of those systems up to $4,000 each.

Failing systems outside a floodplain but within one to five miles of a water body will be the second priority, he said, and failing systems more than five miles from a floodplain will be the third priority.

For second- and third-priority systems, the program will cover 60 percent of the total costs up to $4,000, he said.

Marshall said he and Pitts would develop a workshop program to provide technical information “so people can make informed decisions when selecting, operating and maintaining” their septic systems.

Anyone seeking more information about the program can contact Marshall at (254) 865-2061 or mmarshallut@ag.tamu.edu.

Contact Tim Orwig at torwig@kdhnews.com

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