water main leak

This file photo from 2017 shows the result of an eight-inch water main break on Second Street.

LOGAN — Though other projects were ranked as higher priorities by the county engineer, Logan received a $250,000 Ohio Broadband, Utilities, and Infrastructure for Local Development Success (BUILDS) grant to cover the planning and engineering design of ongoing citywide sewer improvements.

On Nov. 2, the state awarded Logan the grant to cover the planning and engineering design for a project that will replace 20,000 linear feet of sewer line, 1,700 linear feet of storm sewer lines, 68 manholes, add 300 service connections and five new catch basins. The project will benefit 7,020 people, or Logan’s entire estimated population as of April 1, 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

The Ohio BUILDS initiative is part of DeWine’s 2019 H2Ohio initiative, according to the governor’s website. BUILDS water infrastructure grants were funded by the Ohio General Assembly via House Bill 168 with funding that was appropriated through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). A total $250 million in grant funding will impact water infrastructure projects across the state (all 88 counties), according to DeWine’s website.

According to HB 168, the agency providing the grants to political subdivisions, such as Logan, is the Ohio Department of Development; grant selection is competitive. The bill required county engineers to rank eligible projects by priority level; Hocking County Engineer Doug Dillon ranked Logan’s sewer improvements third out of three.

Dillon said Monday that his office’s involvement in HB 168 projects was “very limited;” “The (County Engineers Association of Ohio) is not as familiar with the processes we’d like to be.”

The project Dillon ranked as top priority was Laurelville wastewater treatment plant improvements, which would have mitigated “effluent ammonia per (Ohio Environmental Protection Agency) compliance schedule.”

Laurelville’s wastewater treatment plant project had an estimated cost of $3,346,590, according to information provided by the engineer’s office, and would serve its total population of 869 people.

Dillon said he ranked Laurelville’s wastewater treatment plant as no. 1 priority because “the village is under an EPA mandate because they’re not in compliance with the EPA in NPDES limits — and that’s the Clean Water Act.”

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, “addresses water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants to waters of the United States,” according to the EPA’s website.

According to the EPA, the 1972 Clean Water Act prohibits agencies “from discharging ‘pollutants’ through a ‘point source’ into a ‘water of the United States,’ unless they have an NPDES permit.”

The permit defines limits on what can be discharged, monitoring and reporting requirements, and other specifications to ensure that the discharged pollutants do “not hurt water quality or people’s health.”

“Pollutant” is defined broadly in the Clean Water Act; according to the EPA, it includes any type of “industrial, municipal and agricultural waste discharged into water.”

Laurelville’s plant is “discharging water that’s not quite up to standard,” Dillon explained. “And part of that (is) it’s a 40-year-old problem. They’re planning on doing the updates — they just have been unable to secure financing for that.”

That’s exactly why Dillon ranked it no. 1; all of the projects are “health and safety issues,” however, as Laurelville is under an EPA mandate, it took on urgency, he said.

As for the project ranked second priority, Logan water distribution system improvements were for 100-year-old water lines which undergo “a lot of breakages and failures and boil orders,” Dillon said.

Logan’s water distribution system improvements would address “water main line, water service line, hydrants, reservoir recoating, to address boil orders due breaks, and improve reliability and maintenance of regional water system.” Logan’s water distribution system improvements, ranked second, has an estimated cost of $3,170,700, per information provided by the engineer’s office.

The project the state awarded, ranked last (third) and with the highest estimated cost, will replace Logan’s sanitary sewer system. The project will require deep excavating, Dillon explained, and will also upgrade some of the city’s storm sewers.

“The thought is to try to minimize the amount of I&I that gets into sanitary sewer, which inflow and infiltration is just storm water,” Dillon said. “You don’t have to treat (it) but once it gets into the sanitary sewer, (it) gets piped to the wastewater treatment plant. And you end up cleaning clean water.”

Logan City Service Director Bruce Walker told The Logan Daily News last Friday that Logan’s grant-awarded project will fix the city’s inflow and infiltration (I&I) system, following a study the city did a few years ago. As the third phase of the project, it follows a new sewer line on Walnut Street and additional work on Jennison Avenue and elsewhere in the city.

“It’s a big project,” Walker said. He estimated that the total cost for the project will be around $6 million; DLZ Project Coordinator Tracy Shoults, who applied for the grant on behalf of the city, confirmed this last Friday, and said that her estimate for the total cost is $6,009,515.

Logan’s phase 3 project was one of 49 projects DLZ applied for the Ohio BUILDS grant funding, Shoults said. The Ohio BUILDS grant ($250,000) will only cover about half the total cost of the project’s “planning and engineering design,” Shoults said; she estimates its final cost will be around $500,000.

Shoults said she’s working on applying for additional funding from the EPA, Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and a Residential Public Infrastructure Grant (RPIG), which is a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

Shoults estimates that “we’re six to 12 months here before being able to bid (the Logan project) out and I’m looking at construction (that) appears to maybe be about a year.”

Round two in Ohio BUILDS grant distribution makes Logan the third community in Ohio House District 78, which is represented by Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville), and Ohio Senate District 20, which is represented by Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), to receive Ohio BUILDS Water Infrastructure Grants.

Ohio House District 78 encompasses Fairfield, Hocking, Morgan, Pickaway counties and parts of Athens and Muskingum counties; Ohio Senate District 20 encompasses Fairfield, Guernsey, Hocking, Morgan, Muskingum counties and parts of Athens and Pickaway counties.

According to an Oct. 26 announcement, in round one the state awarded the Burr Oak Regional Water District in Morgan County a $1.9 million grant for “an expansion project to address an area in Morgan County with contaminated and inadequate water supplies.” The project will include approximately 100,000 feet of new waterlines and will benefit 300 people.

Like Logan, in round two the state awarded Ashville (Pickaway County), Stewart’s village of residence, a $250,000 grant to cover the planning and engineering design for a sanitary sewer replacement project, which will benefit 4,500 people, or roughly all of Ashville’s population.

In an interview Monday Rep. Stewart told The Logan Daily News that his office was “pleased” with the fact that three areas in his district have received funding within two rounds.

“We had a very strong belief that we wanted to see this money put to tangible use and coming from local government myself, I know this is a huge need,” Stewart, a former Pickaway County commissioner, said. “We’ve got aging infrastructure in the water and sewer space throughout a lot of southern Ohio. These are projects that were put in a very long time ago and they’re very costly to maintain.”

Stewart went on to say that the Ohio Republican Caucus is particularly passionate about water funding because “a lot of communities are being put under findings by the Ohio EPA. The (EPA) essentially (comes) in and (says) you need to fix this and the community says ‘With what money?’”

When selecting which political subdivisions to award competitive grants, Stewart explained that oftentimes the executive branch, in this case Ohio Department of Development, chooses projects that help the highest number of people “in proportion to the cost;” which can present a problem to smaller communities, perhaps like Laurelville.

“When I was in local government, half the battle was just getting the state and federal government to recognize (a) problem, and that (it) is a problem that that state, local government can have a hand in solving. And because sometimes it’s ‘Well, yes, it’s a problem, but it’s your problem.’”

Stewart admitted that he’s not sure some projects will ever “score terribly well” against others statewide; however, those communities’ issues and projects to improve them will still need to be tackled.

“I don’t know that some of those projects are ever going to score terribly well against the rest of the state, but it still needs to be addressed,” he said. “There are these sort of unique cases where I think we need to have unique fixes.

As far as the next round of Ohio BUILDS grant distribution, Stewart said he’s been in touch with communities in his district who’ve felt neglected.

“We’ve been in conversation with several entities that are feeling left out and wish they’d been awarded — and we want to help,” Stewart said. “But we also know it’s a great big state and it’s tough to get to kind of put your money where it (has) the most impact. So we’re playing with these three and we want to keep it moving.”

A third round of Ohio BUILDS grant recipients will be announced at a later date.

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