Money on the way for Colchester sewer project

A multimillion dollar sewer system upgrade is on the way for Colchester, Illinois.

The upgrade is mandatory after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cited a long list of problems in their sewer system and lagoon.

The pricey project is now pressing forward thanks to a $1,562,000 and $2,348,000 low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development program. Local congressmen pushed the project forward, believing it was a necessity for the city.

"If we get a heavy rain, there's people who get 3 and 4 feet of water in their basements from the back up," explained Mayor Danny Bice.

Like many small communities, Colchester's aging infrastructure is badly deteriorated. The 1960s sewer and water system needs major work, including new pipes in more than a third of the town.

"Our major problem is that there's a lot of cross connections between the storm system and the sewer system. We're supposed to have two separate systems. Evidently, over the past when the storm system issue came up when it collapsed, they tied it into the sanitary," Bice said.

Until recently the city had almost no funding for the project, and the cost is more than the city could handle on its own.

"Like so many projects with the EPA, the liability to the community is so much greater than what the local citizenry can pay out of pocket in the way of water charges," explained Congressman Aaron Schock, who helped secure the loan.

In order to repay the sizable loan, sewer rates to Colchester residents will go up. Mayor Bice says this is one of the biggest complaints he's heard about the project.

"It really hurts. I'm a low income person, I just work at the dollar tree and it really hurts when they raise things," Sarah Kronkler, a Colchester resident said.

According to Bice, the USDA, not the city, will be responsible for determining just how much of an increase customers will see. Right now there are no official numbers, but estimates are as high as a $12-$14 a month hike.

The EPA listed more than two dozen violations for the town. At that time, Colchester had already completed the first step in a six phase process to repair the problems.

As a Colchester resident have you faced difficulties with the water and sewer systems in place? Maybe you've seen water and sewer woes elsewhere in the Tri-States ... we'd love your comments below or on our

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