After launching in 2019, the H2Ohio program is continuing to improve water systems in several counties throughout Ohio.
$500,000 from the H2Ohio grant funds was given to the county to fund the installation of sanitary sewers, Jerry Rouch, deputy director of Infrastructure Funding for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, or Ohio EPA, said.
The Ohio General Assembly invested $172 million into this program from 2020 to 2021, with the hopes of helping 8,000 Ohioans with nine new drinking water projects taking place statewide. The program was introduced under Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s leadership.
“Ohio EPA works with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Lake Erie Commission to implement the governor's vision to improve water quality across the state,” Heidi Griesmer, an Ohio EPA spokeswoman, said.
The three main focus areas for the program include funding infrastructure projects, funding local health districts to help homeowners and funding the replacement of lead service lines in daycare centers, Rouch said.
“Water and wastewater infrastructure — it could be anything from upgrading or building a wastewater or water treatment plant to laying the pipes for drinking water,'' Griesmer said. “It's kind of the entire system.”
Stable water quality in Athens is determined by the hardness of the water as well as certain chemicals, including chlorides, fluoride and chlorine, Jarod Balderson, manager of the Athens Water Treatment Plant, said.
For reference, The Athens Water Treatment Plant typically stays at 1.2 milligrams per liter of chlorine for disinfection, Balderson said. Fluorides are around 1 milligram per liter and a hardness of 120 to 140 milligrams per liter, which is considered good water quality.
Balderson said the plant recently upgraded electrical aspects and made upgrades related to controls, valves and instrumentation to improve energy efficiency.
“These (upgrades) all contribute to maintaining a high water quality for the citizens of Athens,” Balderson said in an email.
The H2Ohio program focuses on funding for both drinking water and wastewater facilities, Rouch said.
A portion of the grant will be used to help Athens community members gain access to a more sanitary sewer system. Before this program was set up, some residents had to utilize home sewage treatment systems or had no public drinking water, Rouch said.
He said the funding will also help to construct new sanitary sewer systems for approximately 160 to 170 homes in the Athens area.
In addition to the H2Ohio program, DeWine also recently introduced the Ohio BUILDS program, another water infrastructure funding program.
“We're trying to help the community get a stable … water supply to these homes,” Griesmer said.