New grant to fix, replace septic systems

Guidelines for new round yet to be announced

Washington County has received more money to assist residents with failing septic systems, with a new round of aid to start in the spring.

This will be the fourth year that the Washington County Health Department received grant funding from the Ohio EPA for its Water Pollution Control Loan Fund. In last year’s cycle, 30 homes had private sewage systems installed or repaired.

“We’re just really proud of this program,” said Washington County Health Commissioner Dick Wittberg. “It’s put $265,000 into improving septic systems this last cycle.”

Not only does that money benefit the local economy, with three Washington County-based installers performing the work, but there are environmental perks to the region as well, said Josh Lane, director of environmental health for the department.

“The environmental impact of failing septic systems may be contamination of surface water and streams, or it may even be a nuisance to a neighboring property,” he said.

Through the program, the county has been been able to eliminate a lot of long-time septic system issues, Lane said.

“We’ve really worked through a backlog,” he said. “I’ve been here since 2005 and we’ve had a lot of sewage nuisance complaints that we investigate and find to be valid complaints. We can write orders for repairs but a lot of the time the residents don’t have the money to do the repairs. If we take it to the prosecutor and levy a fine, that’s not going to fix the system.”

The grant program has fixed some systems that had needed to be repaired or replaced for up to a decade, he said.

“The Ohio EPA has been pretty thrilled with the amount we’ve been able to spend,” he said.

Depending on household income, the resident will be responsible for either a portion of the cost or nothing at all. Guidelines for 2018 have not yet been released, Lane said. Previous guidelines had a family of up to 4 earning as much as $72,250 eligible for half the funding needed.

“Probably 75 percent of what we’ve done has been zero funded (by the property owners),” Lane said.

The county has $200,000 available for the next cycle. It’s a program the health department hopes to continue for many years, said Wittberg.

“Anybody that needs help should let us know,” he said. “Even if don’t get them this time, we hope to keep the money coming.”

Those interested in applying should contact the Washington County Health Department at 740-374-2782.