Monday, February 8, 2016

U.S. EPA: More Than $14B In Ohio Water Infrastructure Needs

It will take more than $14.5 billion to fully fund needed storm water and wastewater projects in Ohio over the next five years, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report recently submitted to Congress.  The agency's 2012 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey illustrates the capital funding needs for an approximate 5-year period in each state based on state and local planning needs to sustain water infrastructure and comply with the federal Clean Water Act.  The EPA conducts the study every four years and clean water advocates say the total need rarely squares with current federal or state funding levels. Together, Great Lakes States like Ohio would require $80 billion for wastewater infrastructure moving forward.

"At the current rate of funding it would take 160 years to address the need in Great Lakes communities," Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition campaign director Todd Ambs said. "This report should serve as a wakeup call for our nation's elected officials to stop kicking the can down the road and to make the necessary investments to support our communities, protect our clean water, and restore our iconic waters like the Great Lakes."

Overall, the 50 states reported needs totaling $271 billion, according to the report. About 75% of that is for wastewater infrastructure, including treatment plant improvements, conveyance system repairs, new conveyance systems and recycled water distribution. Another 18% were for combined sewer overflow correction with an additional 7% for stormwater management.  That total "is extremely large and communities are challenged to fund needed improvements," reads the report. "Additional significant capital investments are needed beyond the $271 billion documented in this report to continue improving our nation's surface water quality."

Ohio's share of the need stands out in two areas: combined sewer overflow correction and conveyance system repair. In those categories, Ohio was among states showing the greatest amount of financial need.  Ohio requires $7.5 billion in capital costs to prevent or control mixed storm water and untreated wastewater from discharging into water systems - the second highest of all states. That represents about 16% of the states' total need of $48 billion. Only New Jersey's needs are higher at $8 billion. And when it comes to conveyance system repair, Ohio saw the third highest need nationally at $3.3 billion - or about 6% of the $51.2 billion in needs reported by all states. California and New York both showed greater need at $6.5 billion and $5.2 billion respectively.

Other Ohio needs include:
• $1.279 billion for secondary treatment
• $890 million for storm water management
• $723 million for new inceptor sewers
• $551 million for new collector sewers
• $369 million for advanced treatment
• $173 million for infiltrate/inflow correction
• $45 million for combined sewer overflow green infrastructure

"This report underscores the urgent need to help local communities fix sewers so that every person in this country has access to safe, clean water," Mr. Ambs said. "This report shows how much work we have left to do."   The report comes at a time of seemingly renewed interest in water quality efforts both because of recent state bond issue proposals and continued questions over lead contaminated drinking water in Sebring.

Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni last year introduced a proposal (SJR 3) that would create a 10-year $100 million a year bond to support the preservation and expansion of sewer and water systems. The resolution is scheduled to receive its first hearing before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.

And the nonprofit group Healthy Water Ohio last year unveiled its own proposal in the form of a 36-page long-term water management plan that recommends creating a $100 million state bond issue, boosting research, and carrying out a wide-ranging needs assessment.

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