Water Infrastructure Grant For Septic Systems
Frequently Asked Questions
- General Questions
- Eligibility Questions
- Application Questions
- Award Questions
- Miscellaneous Questions
Q: What is this grant for?
A: Iowa has over 500 communities that are considered unsewered, many of whom face environmental and public health risks. This IFA infrastructure fund will provide grants for property-owners residing in an unsewered community to repair or upgrade their septic system.
Q: Where did funding come from?
A: The Water Infrastructure Fund (WIF) makes investments to support innovative projects across the state with the goal of protecting, preserving and restoring Iowa’s water resources. WIF is funded by the state of Iowa’s allocation of Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”), which was signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021.
Q: Are these funds being earmarked to counties for distribution?
A: No. This is a first come, first serve program for everyone eligible in the state of Iowa. All projects are permitted at the county level and monies are approved and awarded by the Iowa Finance Authority.
Q: What is a private sewage disposal system?
A: A system which provides for the treatment or disposal of domestic sewage from 4 or fewer dwelling units or the equivalent of less than 16 individuals on a continual basis. Average daily flow of less than 1,500 gallons per site. Domestic sewage can be from residential or nonresidential facilities, but cannot include industrial waste of any flow rate except as provided for in 567-68.11 (455B). The county local Board of Health is only authorized to regulate private septic systems under Chapter 69 of the Iowa Administrative Code.
Q: What is an unsewered community?
A: A populated area, with around 10 houses with 1 or more houses per acre. This area must be approved by the county. Story County Environmental Health has a map on their website that identifies potentially eligible properties in our county. Please note properties that transferred since 2009 are not included on this list so if you believe the property is still eligible just contact our department.
Q: Who is eligible?
A: Any property owner that is the owner of record.
Q: Can someone be awarded more than one grant?
A: No, the property owner can only be awarded one grant regardless of the number of properties they may have eligible.
Q: What properties are eligible for Phase 1?
A: Property must be occupied as a primary residence or place of business, be located in an unsewered community, constructed prior to July 1, 1983, not have transferred since July 1, 2009 (unless exempt from Time of Transfer requirements), and have a problem with the existing system.
Q: Are single homesteads / businesses with a private septic system eligible?
A: Not at this time. Only homes located in unsewered communities approved by the county are eligible at this time. Eligibility may become less restrictive in the future so please keep checking or ask the county to place you on a notification list if they have one.
Q: If my property is within an incorporated city am I automatically not eligible for this grant?
A: While most unsewered communities are in unincorporated areas of the county this is not always the case. Available public sewer must be more than 200’ away and the area must be approved by the county. If you believe your property was not identified by the county and may be eligible please contact Environmental Health staff.
Q: Why must the property be constructed prior to July 1, 1983?
A: Iowa’s first official septic code went into effect on this date and priority is being given to properties that may not have been required to have proper treatment for their waste streams when constructed.
Q: Why is the property not eligible is transferred after July 1, 2009?
A: Iowa’s Time of Transfer program requiring that septic systems be inspected prior to being transferred first went into effect on this date. Priority is being given to properties that may never have transferred or transferred before the law requiring septic system be present and functioning was implemented.
Q: If my property transferred after July 1, 2009 when might it still be eligible?
A: If your property transferred after July 1, 2009 it may still be eligible for this grant if the law exempted it from requiring a Time of Transfer inspection. Generally, the exemptions we see most often involve foreclosures, tax sales, a decedent’s estate/trust, or when a parent transfers property to their child. All exemptions can be found in IAC 567-69.2(1)a.
Q: My existing system is old, but not necessarily failing must my existing system have a problem?
A: According to IFA at this time, eligibility for Phase 1 requires that the system be failing in a manner that if the county was made aware of it then it would necessitate compliance or enforcement action from the county. We are required to list that problem on the application.
Q: What type of problems would be Phase 1 eligible?
A: * Primary Treatment: No tank if one is required, leaking/deteriorated/cracked tank, non-watertight tank
* Secondary Treatment: Does not exist and possibly goes directly to a field tile/ ditch/waterway; Sewage is surfacing / leaking, discharge sample does not meet standards.
*Documentation from a pumper, inspector or installer that that the system needs to be repaired/replaced.
* Damage to the distribution box, pipes and other system components that need replaced should also be eligible repairs
Q: What might be an indicator that my system needs to be repaired or replaced?
A: The following items may indicate your system is having issues and needs to be repaired or replaced; history of sewer backups, plumbing drains slowly, pumping excessively to prevent backups, depressions in yard, etc. We recommend speaking with an installer or inspector to determine if your system would qualify for this program.
Q: Is connecting to an available public sewer system an eligible expense?
A: If the existing septic system is failing and there is public sewer available within 200’ then the grant would consider connection an eligible expense. If the available sewer connection is more than 200’ away from a public sewer system, grant funding could be used for a private septic system or a connection to the public sewer system. May be asked to supply the cost differential between the two options.
Q: Will the eligibility restrictions loosen?
A: At this time, we do not have an answer to that question and the eligibility requirements in place are what we must follow. Story County is maintaining a list of people that have contacted us and are not currently eligible, if the restrictions change we plan on notifying these property owners of the changes.
Q: When does this grant start / When Can applications be submitted?
A: Phase one has already began and applications can be submitted now. Contact Story County Environmental Health to verify you qualify and staff will help you start the application process.
Q: How do we apply?
A: Owners must work with Story County Environmental Health to fill out the application. Once staff determines a property is eligible they will begin filling out the form with the owner. Once the form and needed attachments are ready both the sanitarian and property owner will sign the application prior to submission.
Q: Besides the application what else is needed?
A: In addition to the application, a written estimate from an installer is needed along with a septic construction permit from the county. Story County may issue a Preliminary Construction permit for the purposes of this grant.
Q: Am I required to have a written report from an installer or pumper stating that my system needs to be replaced or repaired?
A: At this time, this is not a requirement by IFA. However, the more supporting documentation we have increases your chances for approval when the application is submitted.
Q: Why can’t I submit my ACH Form to the county with my application?
A: IFA will be reimbursing property owners directly. Since the ACH form contains personal information such as social security and bank account numbers the Environmental Health Department does not want to be responsible for the security of that information and has decided to not accept those forms.
Q: What is the county’s preliminary construction permit and is there a fee?
A: This permit is called an SR-Permit. It is being used to speed up the application process and keep initial costs down for property owners until they know they have been awarded the grant. There is no initial fee for the SR-Permit. System design speculations will be based on knowledge of the area and soil maps by the county sanitarian and installer. This permit does not authorize any construction. Actual permitted design specifications may be altered based on the soil evaluation.
Q: When do I need to apply for a Construction Permit?
A: Once IFA approves the grant application the property owner will need to apply through the Environmental Health Department website for a septic permit. Once you have created an account and applied you will be sent an email to pay online. The fee is $150. Before the permit can be issued a Soil Evaluation is required.
Q: What is a Soil Evaluation and how do I get one?
A: Soil Evaluations provide the county with necessary information regarding the soil and limiting layers that determine the type and size of treatment options that can be used. This information helps to ensure the longest lasting system that can be put in as well as safeguard the environment. In Story County soil evaluations can only be done by county approved Evaluators. Contact Environmental Health for a current list.
Q: Who can install my septic system?
A: In Story County only licensed installers are allowed to install septic systems. Installers are required to have the CIOWTS credential that is issued by IOWWA or NEHA. A list of licensed installers can be found on their website at: www.iowwa.com
Q: How quickly will we be notified if awarded the grant?
A: As this is a new program it is hard to say, however, if a complete application is submitted IFA anticipates a quick turnaround.
Q: What expenses are covered?
A: Grant awards may fund all costs directly related to the design, permitting and construction of the private sewage disposal system. Eligible costs include; permit fees, soil evaluation; the removal of existing structures, such as abandoned septic tanks; earth moving related to proper wastewater treatment, tanks, pump vaults, secondary and tertiary treatment systems, etc.)
Q: Is there a cap?
A: At this time there is not a cap and all funds directly related to the design, permitting and construction of the private sewage disposal system are eligible. The Iowa Finance Authority may implement one at a later date so it is best to ask during the application process.
Q: What systems can be installed if awarded the grant?
A: All systems approved for installation in IAC 567.69 are eligible. County must approve the system to be installed. Story County will follow the Chapter 69 matrix in determining type of system to install whenever possible.
Q: What if plumbing needs to be rerouted, connected or disconnected for waste streams to be properly treated and compliant with Chapter 69 is this an eligible expense?
A: Presently, internal plumbing is not an eligible expense of this grant. The work would still need to be done to ensure the system is compliant with current rules, but it would be at the property owner’s expense.
Q: Is an inspection required and why?
A: Yes, a final inspection by the county is required before grant money is issued to the property owner. This is not only a requirement of the grant, but also state and local rules state that all systems be permitted and inspected to ensure compliance with Chapter 69. The installer must schedule the inspection with the county and all components must be visible for inspection.
Q: Must the final invoice be itemized and why?
A: Yes, the final invoice must be itemized. This is so IFA can determine eligible expenses to pay out as well as verify and prove all expenses paid out met the guidelines of the grant if they get audited.
Q: What if the final invoice comes in lower than the estimated bid that was submitted with application?
A: IFA will only reimburse eligible expenses listed on the itemized invoice and only for that amount. Money not spent will go back into the funding pool and remain available for other participants.
Q: What if the final invoice comes in above the estimated bid that was submitted with the application?
A: At this time, we are being told if money is available all eligible expenses will be covered if they can be justified by the installer and county. If it is something that impacts costs significantly the installer should let the county know the anticipated increase so IFA can be informed to ensure money would still be available before proceeding.
Q: When will the property owner receive the grant money (award)?
A: The property owner will receive the grant money once the system is installed, passed inspection and all reports have been submitted to the county and IFA. IFA anticipates a fairly quick turnaround, but no definite timeframes were given as this is a new program and they are unsure what to expect.
Q: Is the installer paid directly by IFA once the work is inspected and approved?
A: No, IFA will directly deposit the grant award into the property owner’s account once the final reports have been submitted and approved. The property owner is responsible to pay the installer in the manner prescribed by that private business.
Q: How soon must the system be installed?
A: The system needs to be installed within 6 months from the date IFA approves the grant. This is to ensure funds are put in the hands of the people and projects are done in a timely manner. It is important that the installer is aware of this and can meet this deadline.
Q: What if the 6-month deadline cannot be met?
A: The grant agreement IFA has is with the homeowner so they will need to notify IFA why the deadline cannot be met and request an extension to the completion deadline. These will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis but if there are legitimate reasons they should be willing to extend the completion date. Please note that until you have confirmation from IFA that the money is still available the system should not be installed.
Q: Is this considered taxable income?
A: Some uses of American Rescue Plan State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds may trigger tax consequences. In general, any grant payment(s) received must be included in the calculation of gross income unless an exclusion applies. For further information, please consult with a tax advisor.
Q: What if I do not receive this grant, but still need repair or replace my septic system and do not have the money?
A: If you are not awarded the grant and need to repair/replace your system there are two (2) other programs that may be available to you. The State Revolving Fund’s Onsite Wastewater Assistance Program (OSWAP) and the Story County Housing Trust Fund’s Owner-Occupied Repair Programs (OOR). Information on both of the programs can be found on the Story County Environmental Health Page under Financial Assistance for Septic Systems. Please note that this is Phase 1 of this grant and it is possible that the eligibility requirements may change to make your property eligible for this grant in the future.