An incentive grants program announced Friday could help Lexington businesses, churches, apartment complexes and neighborhood associations improve water quality.
In some cases, a grant could be used on a project such as replacing a standard church or business parking lot with one that allows rain to drain through. That could lead to a lower water quality fee each month.
Other uses for grants, such as teaching school children about water pollution, would have less tangible results, but in all cases, officials said, the long-term goal is less pollution reaching Lexington's troubled streams.
"My vision for this ... is that some day we will have a Fayette County that has no impaired streams," said Linda Gorton, an Urban County councilwoman and a member of a work group that came up with details for the program.
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The program is one of several steps being taken to comply with a 2008 settlement between the city and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA had sued, alleging that the city was violating the Clean Water Act by allowing storm runoff and, in some cases, untreated sewage, to reach streams.
Last month, the city began collecting a new water quality fee. For everyone who lives in a single-family residence or duplex or on a farm, the monthly fee is $4.32.
For stores, factories, churches and residences larger than a duplex, the fee is $4.32 for each 2,500 feet of impervious surface such as roofs and parking lots.
The fee is expected to bring in about $12 million a year. The money will be spent on projects such as rebuilding and monitoring storm sewers. About $1.2 million of that will go to the incentives program each year. (The figure for the first year is about $1.5 million because the grants will be awarded in fiscal year that begins July 1, but money already is being collected).
Two types of grants are available:
■ Class A: For neighborhoods or homeowner associations. These could include building rain gardens or planting trees and bushes near ponds and streams to slow runoff, or education programs. The maximum grant is $50,000, and a cost-sharing or sweat-equity match is required. The application deadline is April 30.
■ Class B: For schools, churches, businesses or apartment complexes.
Those could include education programs or projects such as pavement that allows rain water to soak into the ground instead of rushing to a creek. The maximum grant is $500,000. The application deadline is May 28.
Grants will be awarded by a Water Quality Fees Board whose members are appointed by the mayor.