FiveCAP program assists area families

Well, septic, and plumbing repairs done

FiveCAP programs help area residents with well, septic and plumbing repairs through COIVD-19 CARES Act grants. (Star file photo)

FiveCAP programs help area residents with well, septic and plumbing repairs through COIVD-19 CARES Act grants. (Star file photo)

LAKE COUNTY — Unlike homes in urban areas, which are connected to public water systems, households in impoverished rural areas rely on individual well and septic systems, and with costs upwards in the thousands to keep equipment in good-working order, some have been forced to go without the water supply they need.

Through grant funding which was made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares Act), 21 families in the area were given assistance through FiveCAP, Inc., to have water, septic and indoor plumbing repairs or replacement through a water funding program.

The $115,000 grant, which served households in Mason, Lake, Manistee and Newaygo counties, really got off the ground by October. The rush was on to get as many households as possible assisted by the original deadline of Dec. 31, 2020. An extension of the program until Feb. 15, 2021, allowed more people to be assisted.

To get the work done within the limited window of time presented some obstacles. With the pandemic, it was complicated to schedule contractors. Weather also played a crucial factor. Water issues can be even more burdensome in northern climates with harsh winters. The real challenge was to stay ahead of a winter deep freeze, which came before the Feb. 15 deadline, putting a halt to the work, and by that time, the grant money ran out.

Despite the unique challenges, for 21 households, a great burden had been lifted and they are living in better and safer conditions thanks to the funding and the efforts put forth.

The endeavor has been an eye-opener with the unique difficulties low-income residents face in rural areas when it comes to water, septic and plumbing upkeep. In urban areas, water issues are taken care of in city systems, but in rural areas, people are left on their own to maintain and upkeep their water, plumbing and septic systems.

"A major need is not being met in rural areas. People with a $13,000 income or less, some struggling to survive on $10,000 a year, face real dire circumstances if their well quits working, and get a bill for $7,000 to have it fixed. We have people saving for repairs, and going without basic needs in the meantime," said FiveCAP Executive Director Mary Trucks, adding some have gone more than a year without water.

For those living at or below the Federal Poverty Level, it is near impossible to meet the costly repairs for well, septic and indoor plumbing needs without a major sacrifice to their other basic-living needs.

Trucks hopes that going forward, more awareness and resources can be generated to the specific needs of adequate water supply and septic and plumbing needs in rural areas.