SNEEDVILLE — U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service Administrator Chad Rupe announced last week that that USDA is investing $135 million in 49 projects to improve rural water infrastructure in 24 states.

One of those projects is in Hancock County.

The Town of Sneedville has been awarded $912,000 in grants and loans to upgrade its three-decades old wastewater treatment plant.

The funding includes a $209,000 loan, $203,000 federal grant, and an additional $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

That package will allow the town to begin Phase 5 of its sewer upgrades in early 2020.

Dean Helstrom, Senior Project Manager with Vaughn & Melton Civil Engineers, was present at the August 13, 2019, meeting of the Sneedville Board of Mayor and Aldermen to report that his firm has completed 50% of the design for this portion of the project.

Helstrom expects the project to be bid in December of this year.

Phase 5 will provide much needed upgrades to the plant, including the addition of a mechanical screen with an integrated compactor unit at the headwork channel, replacement of two surge pumps in the surge basin, along with piping and valve additions to operate the basin. A new flow splitter box will also be constructed and two clarifier units will be installed. Rounding out Phase 5 will be the purchase of an air compressor and support hardware.

Over the course of 10 years, the town has completed three phases of inflow and infiltration work on the sewer system that have significantly reduced inflow and infiltration.

Applauding the awarding of the grants was U.S. Congressman Phil Roe.

“I am very pleased to see a such a strong investment being made in Hancock County,” Roe told the Eagle. “The wastewater treatment plant, which is more than 30 years old, was in much need of an upgrade. Not only will this project improve the filtration process, this construction will also bring new opportunities within the community. I look forward to seeing the benefits the completion of this project will bring.”