Sink water

In a town less than 100 years old, it might be surprising to find pipes made of the same materials used in 4000 B.C., but that's the situation Ardmore officials are currently facing. With the public's help, they hope to bring the town's sewer system into the modern age.

Billy Shannon, who serves as the mayor of Ardmore, Alabama, and the board chairman of the Ardmore Water Department, said officials are floating a petition to get support for a grant that would allow the town to replace clay piping with PVC piping. Dating as far back as 4,000 B.C., clay or terra cotta piping can be heavy, hard to work with and very susceptible to root intrusion and leaks, according to sewer and plumbing experts.

The estimated cost of replacing the piping is $437,500. That's where Lucas Blankenship, director of economic development and planning for Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments, comes in. With Blankenship's help, the Alabama side of Ardmore can receive up to $350,000 in grant funding from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. They will also need the public's help.

“(ADECA) likes to see public comment and public backing of these projects when a municipality applies,” Blankenship said. “... Grants are very competitive, so the more support we garner, the greater the likelihood of the application scoring higher in the process.”

To that end, copies of a petition have been placed at Jones Drug Co. on Ardmore Avenue, the Greater Ardmore Chamber of Commerce office on First Street and the Town Hall and Museum on First Street. Anyone who lives in Ardmore or does business in Ardmore is encouraged to sign the petition.

“We have the opportunity to receive a $350,000 grant from (ADECA) to help provide an adequate sanitary sewer system for our town and community,” read a post on GACOC's Facebook page. “We need as many signatures as possible!”

The deadline to sign the petition is Friday, with the full grant application due by noon July 22. Residents, consumers and business owners of Ardmore can also submit letters to the mayor that can be included as support documentation for the application.

Shannon said Second, Third and Fourth streets in Ardmore, Alabama, will be the focus of the project. He said other clay piping in the town has already been replaced. Blankenship said grant funding did not have to be spent on clay piping alone. If workers find cast iron or other types of piping that needs replacement, the grant could cover that, too, Blankenship said. However, the funding must only be spent on the pipes in Ardmore, Alabama.

Since the town is on the Alabama-Tennessee state line, Shannon said the mayor of Ardmore, Tennessee, has been working with a Tennessee organization to secure additional funding for replacement projects in Ardmore, Tennessee. Ardmore Water Department oversees both sides of the town, he said, and would cover any costs not covered by grants.

“If we don't get grants on either side, the water department will try to repair parts,” Shannon said.

Blankenship hopes that with enough public support, grant approval could be announced between Halloween and Thanksgiving this year and construction could start as early as April or May 2020.