GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Greene County leaders were ecstatic Monday to receive almost $7.7 million from the state to improve the county’s water infrastructure.

County Mayor Kevin Morrison received the check for $7,693,909 from Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Commissioner David Salyers during a ceremony at Walters State Community College.

That money comes from federal American Rescue Plan (ARPA) dollars disbursed by TDEC for the purpose of improving water infrastructure, especially in rural areas.

It will fund 10 projects across the county’s utility districts that will lay over 65,000 feet (that’s over 12 miles) of higher-capacity water pipes that will replace aging infrastructure and a new 250,000-gallon tank that can provide enough water for 800 homes.

“This is a game changer with our utility districts for water line replacement and upgrades,” Morrison said. “We have, for example, previous smaller water lines in the ground, older material. These funds will be used to replace those, to upgrade to larger higher-capacity lines.”

Morrison said these funds take care of high-priority projects for the county’s water utility districts. He said it now frees up the utility districts to expand access.

“The utility districts can use their dedicated funds, to extend their services, but have the capacity to do so,” Morrison said.

State Rep. David Hawk, who represents Greene County, was there and said the General Assembly and Gov. Bill Lee identified water infrastructure as a top priority for how localities should use the millions in ARPA funds across the state.

“It’s not something that people can see because it is underground, but it’s going to have the greatest impact on our residents,” Hawk said.

TDEC announced this was their first disbursement of ARPA funds for water infrastructure projects.

“I just can’t imagine a better way to impact a community and citizens by implementing these dollars,” Salyers said before presenting the check.

First Tennessee Development District helped Greene County prepare its application for the ARPA grant. Executive Director Mike Harrison said they are helping other localities prepare applications for similar projects.

That money and the projects it can fund are something Harrison thinks can propel the entire region forward as it continues on an upward trajectory.

“I don’t care what your workforce is or anything else, if you don’t have water and sewer available, you can’t grow,” Harrison said.

Hawk said this project will help modernize the county’s rural areas.

“Folks when they come to rural Northeast Tennessee, they can live anywhere in our communities,” Hawk said. “They can live on the side of a mountain and still have water and sewer.”

He said counties can expect more ARPA disbursements over the next couple of years. He said the state has identified road and broadband infrastructure as particular areas of interest.

Morrison said planning for the water projects had been in the works for some time, and shovels could be hitting the ground soon.