Like his peers, Mike Baker, chief of the Ohio EPA's Division of Drinking and Ground Waters, knows that need far exceeds funding availability.
In the months since the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, nearly 500 Ohio communities submitted 1,694 projects worth more than $2 billion. Sixty-five projects in 52 communities received grants or loans through the stimulus package. "There's a lot of disappointment out there," he says.
But despite fantastically long wish lists, some operations are benefiting exactly as envisioned.
Plagued by inadequate financial and personnel resources, aging surface water treatment plants in Salineville and Cumberland ? two tiny villages in Ohio's Appalachian Plateau ? had been on the EPA's non-compliance radar for several years. Surface water treatment regulations, including more stringent turbidity standards and inspection of filters instead of the finished product, are tougher than those for ground water treatment facilities.
Salineville's 80-year-old plant, which treats 120,000 gallons/day from a creek and natural reservoir, hadn't been updated since 1950 and had run without a licensed operator for three years.
"In 2006 it was in such a state of disrepair that we had to put the entire community on a boil advisory for seven months," Baker says.
Inspectors cited turbidity; high chlorine residuals; algae on the surface water reservoir; inadequate isolation of the finished water reservoir, which became a haven for snakes; and no certified operator. The previous operator stayed for 12 weeks, and his successor never renewed his license.
"The last operator left because he was frustrated with not getting the resources he needed to properly maintain the facility," Baker says. "We're talking about small villages, low income, the inability to pay competitively."
By 2007, the village had been non-compliant for several months but couldn't afford to hire a certified operator, repair broken filters, and replace continuous chlorine and filter media meters.
Last summer, the agency approved a plan to eliminate the need for the plant by linking the village of 1,400 residents to the Buckeye Water District, where a 4-mgd plant that went online last summer treats water from the Ohio River for 7,000 residents in east-central Ohio. Almost 10 miles of PVC/ductile iron pipe ranging in diameter from 12 to 24 inches would need to be laid, a $4.3 million project.
The village received nearly $1 million in Community Development Block and Ohio Public Works Commission grants, but it wasn't enough.
"Then the stimulus came along," Baker recalls. "This was a good fit because the plans had been approved. This truly is shovel ready." As a project partner, Buckeye received a $2.7 million principal forgiveness loan with an additional zero-interest, 30-year, $687,120 loan through the stimulus package.
A similar story is unfolding 95 miles southwest.
Home to 402 people earning an average annual income of $30,000, Cumberland also had few resources to properly maintain its 40-year-old treatment facility, which draws drinking water from an abandoned mine.
In 1997, the state EPA cited the operation for turbidity as well as excessive levels of iron, manganese ? likely from the mine shafts ? and organic growth. Later, disinfection byproduct exceedance was added to the list of violations. With the toughest penalties assessed at $5,000/day of non-compliance, the village faced millions in potential fines.
In 2005, the EPA approved a plan to extend an 8-inch PVC pipeline 6.5 miles from the village to the neighboring town of Byesville. There, a plant built in 2004 with a design capacity of 2.25 mgd and averaging 1.65 mgd could easily handle 50,000 additional gallons/day.
The $2.2 million project would allow Cumberland to decommission its facility and avoid paying penalties, but Ohio's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund offered to forgive $200,000 of the principal and a $500,000 loan at zero interest with the remaining loan amount at 2% interest.
Then the stimulus package was enacted.
"We walked them through and made sure they met all the requirements to get this funding," says Sarah Wallace, EPA inspector for Cumberland. The village applied in February and was notified of the award at the end of April. "Since this project was already on the EPA project priority list for state revolving funds, it was easier to apply for stimulus funds."
The village received an 80% principal forgiveness loan totaling $1.76 million in addition to a $440,000 zero-interest loan because it qualifies as a disadvantaged community.
Both projects are expected to begin in October and could be complete as early as summer 2010.