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Illinois U.S. Sen. Durbin pledges $3.5 million for Cahokia Heights sewer repairs

 Dick Durbin stands behind a podium while answering reporters' questions on a sunny day.
Will Bauer
St. Louis Public Radio
Aside Col. Kevin Golinghorst of the Army Corps of Engineers on Friday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, discusses federal funding for Cahokia Heights and its ongoing sewer repair projects.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, pledged another $3.5 million of federal funding for Cahokia Heights’ faulty sewer system on Friday.

The cash from the federal budget will funnel to Cahokia Heights through the Army Corps of Engineers and will help fund an existing project for the city's main trunk line.

“What it's all about is making sure the quality of life is improved for the people who live in this area,” Durbin said. “Can you imagine dealing with this kind of flooding on a real basis in your home — in your home? It's not a once-in-a-lifetime thing; it's way too frequent.”

Last week, the Corps and city officials signed an agreement for the $4.67 million project that officials say will take a few years to complete. Those officials say the project on the 9-mile line will correct pipe deficiencies and ensure reliability.

This latest project comes in conjunction with a nearly $10 million project funded by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which will also address the main trunk and the city’s 35 pump stations.

“If that main line, that main conduit, isn't repaired, it affects all the other sewers in the community in a negative way,” said Jim Nold, senior project manager at Hurst Rosche, the engineering firm designing the project for the city.

Durbin acknowledged that any repairs to the city’s infrastructure won’t happen as fast as residents who’ve long dealt with backed-up sewers and standing water in their basements would like.

“They have a right to be frustrated,” he said.

Durbin visited Cahokia Heights last August, when he announced support from the American Rescue Plan Act for the city’s repairs.

On Friday, the East St. Louis native said he’s interested in moving the project forward by getting state and regional leaders together to discuss how other communities can help solve the issue that's impacted some of the city’s residents for a long time.

“We need regional cooperation in dealing with this,” he said. “This just isn't a Cahokia Heights problem or East St. Louis problem. It's a regional problem. We've got to address it in a regional way.”

Will Bauer is the Metro East reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.