Funding to repair septic tanks secured

STEUBENVILLE — Residents of Jefferson County have an opportunity to have their faulty septic system repaired or replaced with funding administered through the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District, in partnership with the Jefferson County Health Department.

Wendee Zadanski, the district’s natural resources specialist, said the county this year has secured $200,000 in funding from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to assist income-eligible homeowners with the repair or replacement of existing failing home septic systems that are causing impairment to groundwater, creeks and streams in Jefferson County’s watersheds.

The program funding comes from the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund, which made approximately $13.3 million in principal forgiveness funding available to Ohio’s health districts during 2018 for projects that repair or replace failing home sewage treatment systems or connect homes with failing systems to existing sanitary sewer systems.

“This is a significant funding opportunity for county residents,” Zadanski said. “Pathogens from faulty septic systems can cause health problems in humans, and people can become ill after wading or swimming in creek, stream or river water polluted from faulty septic system discharges. Water from polluted streams and creeks travels to the Ohio River, where people recreate and many of our communities get drinking water supplies.”

To be considered eligible for the program, total household income must be under 300 percent of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines, and the home must be owned and occupied by the applicant. The home’s septic system also must be documented as failing by the Jefferson County Health Department. There is a nonrefundable inspection fee to be paid by the homeowner of $175 for the determination, regardless of whether the repair/replacement of the system is funded.

Due to the large number of failing septic systems in the county and the high cost of replacing a system, Zadanski anticipates there will be more eligible projects than there are dollars to fund them. Eligible applications will be scored based on watershed and environmental factors to determine the order in which projects are funded, she said. The number of septic systems that can be replaced or repaired with the funding will depend on the actual costs of individual projects, she added.

Applicants who are successful in securing the funding can qualify for 50 percent, 85 percent or 100 percent of the septic system repair or replacement project or connection cost, depending on income.

Homeowners interested in applying for funding may request an application packet from the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District by calling (740) 264-9790. Applicants will need to provide proof of income and home ownership as well as photo identification when submitting an application. Completed applications and required documentation must be received in the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District office by 4:30 p.m. on May 14. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.