MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel city council members learned Monday that funding for a $1.3 million sewer improvement project was denied by the State of Illinois, forcing the city to seek funding elsewhere before the purchased permits for the project expire in March 2018.

The sewer improvements were mandated by the state, forcing the city to comply with EPA regulations on the effluent and outflow lines which clean sewage before it flows to the river. The EPA found the city in city in non-compliance two years ago with sewer plant issues and the city started the compliance process following the EPA report, paying $60,000 for permits and studies for the improvement project.

Those permits expire in March 2018 and the city is left with no funding help from the state. "The city paid the money to acquire the permits and studies needed to move ahead with the improvements, but the state took over a year to come back and tell us there was no funding for the project. So now we are in pinch to get the funding before the permits expire," said city commissioner Justin Dulgar.

Lamac engineer John Acree told commissioners that they are now two years behind on achieving EPA compliance. "Basically, the Illinois EPA wants the problems fixed, but they don't want to help you get the money to fix it," said Acree. "You are already in $60,000. I would hate to see you lose money on those permits if they expire," he said.

Funds could become available from Rural Development, but the city would have to demonstrate they can not find funding anywhere else before going to Rural Development, explained Acree.

City Clerk Rudy Witsman said he will start working on financing options, and will report back to commissioners next month.

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