Monday, August 3, officials with the Trump administration announced that the US Department of Agriculture would be investing $462 million to aid in modernizing critical water and wastewater infrastructure in rural towns and cities.
Among four New Mexico communities sharing in this revenue will be the Village of Williamsburg, which according to the press release, was awarded a $1.2 million loan to help address the community’s aging wastewater system. Also cited as recipients of the welcomed federal funding were the communities of Grants, Ruidoso and Artesia.
Village officials applied for USDA funding, as the community’s sewer lines are in need of extensive repairs and/or replacement. This need is further enhanced by an added potential for the leeching of aging pipelines, which could pose serious health concerns for citizens if septic leaks were to infiltrate into the ground water and ultimately to the adjacent Rio Grande channel. Williamsburg’s existing sewer system was reportedly first installed in the 1940s and was expanded in the early 2000s.
Still deep in the process of cleaning up after the previous week’s flooding rains, Williamsburg authorities were bolstered by this announcement, which will now allow village trustees to move forward with the much-anticipated improvement project.
In a brief phone interview August 5, Village Clerk/Treasurer Amanda Cardona confirmed receipt of the USDA award documents. She said the USDA loan of approximately $1.2 million would now be added to a previous federal grant of over $2.88 million, giving Williamsburg a total of near $4.13 million to address the necessary sewer system upgrade. Cardona said efforts were now focused on completing all of the associated documentation and moving the project forward into a development stage. While acknowledging how impacts from the coronavirus have fostered many bureaucratic delays and anticipating more of the same for the near term, Cardona indicated the administration was nonetheless optimistic and pleased to have the necessary funding in hand. If all goes well, she said construction on this important infrastructure upgrade could begin within the next year, to year and a half.
Although its too early in the project to begin anticipating actual improvements, Williamsburg residents can take comfort in knowing this long-standing concern is at least in line for attention. Among other problems delivered by the late July storm was an apparent overflow, or backup, of the Village’s sewer system in some residential areas. While such concerns will remain for the near term, the improvements now on-deck will soon allow the community’s approximate 229 residents and 17 commercial establishments to be confident in future sewer system operations.