Oregon gets $4.1 million grant for improvements to wastewater plant

Kelly J. Kaczala

        The City of Oregon received a $4.1 million grant from the Ohio Department of Development for its wastewater treatment plant’s Safety, Disinfection, and Grit Removal Improvement Project.
        It is part of $135 million in grants awarded to communities throughout the state that will support 90 critical water infrastructure projects in 64 counties throughout the state.
        The grants are part of the fifth round of the Ohio BUILDS (Broadband, Utilities, and Infrastructure for Local Development Success) water infrastructure program. Since its inception, the program has provided nearly $500 million to support 343 local water projects impacting each of Ohio’s 88 counties.
         “We had applied for the grant earlier and were unsuccessful,” said Public Service Director Paul Roman. “I want to commend Don Nelson (Environmental Specialist in the Public Service Department) for his hard work and persistence, and following up on these grants when he realized another round of grants was available to apply for. And we were very successful this time.” 
        The city also has a $900,000 grant and $900,000 0 percent loan from the Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC), and a low interest (2.3 percent) loan from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the remaining amount. The EPA loan will be reduced to a third of the original principal amount, which will be approximately $2 million.
Major savings
        It is considered a major savings to Oregon water and sewer customers. A reduced capital improvement charge is planned to take effect in January, 2025 once the project is completed.
        “There’s a capital improvement charge for each individual project,” explained City Administrator Joel Mazur. “When the city takes out debt on a project like this, we apply a capital improvement charge to everyone’s bill as an individual line item so people know part of their rate is for paying off the loan on the improvement project at the wastewater plant. So this will reduce the capital improvement charge.”
        It is rare to get a grant from the Ohio Department of Development for utilities projects, said Mazur.
         “Usually, we get them through other agencies,” he said.
        The project aims to enhance water quality, increase safety and process performance, reduce public health risks by replacing the existing chlorine disinfection process with ultraviolet disinfection, and making improvements to the existing grit removal system. 
        “These improvements are necessary,” said Mazur. “They are not options. These are requirements that are passed down to us by the Ohio EPA. We have to fulfill these projects. It improves our water quality.”
        The project will benefit 32,600 people, the entire customer base of the plant. “It serves folks in Wood County, eastern Lucas County, and a future improvement that will serve Ottawa County communities like Curtice,” said Nelson.
        It will also provide safety measures for employees in the plant, according to Nelson.
        “There will be new safety railings around the tanks that have become deteriorated over time,” he said.
        The impact of the grant, said Mazur, is “far reaching.”
        “Getting a grant of this size for our project is great for us because it helps us to keep our rates stabilized and we don’t have to raise them as quickly in the future.”
        The city has one of the lowest sewer and water rates in the area, said Mazur.
        “They are at or below average,” he said. He attributes it to many things.
        “We have little debt. We have a sewer leak detection program. When there’s a leak, we fix it quickly. We operate the entire system very well. And we have very efficient operators. They know what they’re doing. They are very experienced. Having an experienced staff makes all the difference in the world.”
        The UV components are expected to arrive in the fall and installed over the winter. “We’re looking to finish by probably this time next year,” said Nelson.
        Gov. Mike DeWine’s Administration launched the Ohio BUILDS water infrastructure program in 2021 as a continuation of DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, which was launched in 2019 to focus on ensuring plentiful, clean, and safe water for communities across the state. In total, nearly $1.3 billion has been dedicated to the initiative.


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