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EPA Awards Nearly $2M in Research and Issues Action Plan to Help Small Communities Protect Public Health and Increase Access to Clean Water

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Lagoon Wastewater Treatment Action Plan and announced nearly $2 million in research grant funding to accelerate innovative and alternative wastewater treatment technologies in lagoon and pond systems serving small communities. Through research grants and the first ever Action Plan, EPA is providing equitable, accessible, and coordinated technical and financial programs, resources, and assistance that will help improve public health and clean waterway protections for rural, small, and Tribal communities that rely on lagoon wastewater treatment systems.

“Many small and rural communities in the United States rely on a wastewater treatment process that falls short of environmental and public health protection,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “The Lagoon Action Plan will help communities with lagoon systems ensure their local water quality isn’t impacted by improper wastewater management.”

“Lagoon wastewater systems are essential to many small, rural, and Tribal communities,” said Chris Frey, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “EPA is funding this research to help improve water quality and better serve these communities.”

Lagoon wastewater treatment systems are a common form of decentralized wastewater treatment that uses earthen ponds to break down wastewater using natural biological processes. These systems are particularly attractive to small or rural communities because of their low operating cost, built-in solids storage, and low minimal operating requirements.

The Lagoon Action Plan outlines critical actions that EPA will implement through 2026 to assist rural, small, and Tribal communities with lagoon wastewater treatment systems. The plan will identify how many lagoon wastewater treatment systems are in the United States; provide financial and technical assistance tools – including tools to help underserved communities access Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding; develop cost and performance data for technologies, regulatory support tools, and plans for community engagement, communication, and partnerships.

EPA is awarding $2 million to research and provide information that can help small communities deploy demonstrated innovative water technologies for lagoon systems, which will help achieve better nutrient management in a cost-effective manner. The following universities will be receiving an award:

Learn more about the funded recipients.

Learn more about EPA research grants.


Small lagoon communities typically serve fewer than 3,000 people and frequently lack the necessary financial and technical resources to comply with the Clean Water Act (CWA). Many of these communities utilized lagoon wastewater systems as the only way to treat their community wastewater. Over 4,500 of these facilities are discharging lagoon wastewater systems that do not rely on more advanced supplemental technology; this is about one-quarter of the nation’s Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) regulated by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) program.

EPA has a 30+ year history of helping communities invest in water infrastructure projects, like lagoon systems. Since 1988, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) has provided over $153 billion in low-cost assistance to borrowers across the country – with small communities receiving almost $35 billion. And thanks to additional funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), over $3 billion is available through the CWSRF in FY 2022, of which a significant portion will be made available as grants or forgivable loans and below market rate loans, down to 0% interest. Through the Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Community Initiative, EPA and USDA-RD are leveraging technical assistance to help historically underserved communities access these funding sources to address their wastewater needs.

A man standing in front of a water treatment facility operation

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