State aid for septic repairs winding down

LISBON – A successful program at the county health department, which has helped low-income home owners bring their septic issues into compliance, may soon be a thing of the past.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, the board voted to apply for $56,000 in septic repair funding for next year. However, Health Commissioner Wesley Vins said he has been informed by the state that this round of funding is the last planned.

For four years, the health board has been using money through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Pollution Control Loan Fund. Vins pointed out the Community Action Agency helps pre-qualify the property owners free of charge, and the county health department’s environmental division runs the program, which includes putting the projects out to bid with local contractors.

Neighbors dealing with a nearby failing septic tank benefit by having a health issue cleaned up.

Vins believes the program has benefitted the community as a whole, adding those residents with qualifying incomes below the poverty level will have few alternatives in the future.

Vins said he has been in contact with state Sen. Joe Schiavoni’s office, who also made some calls about keeping the program operating. However, Vins said he has been told the state EPA believes the money can better be spent repairing sewage systems in high-population low-income areas instead of on individual septic systems.

He has been told about another program where qualifying residents can receive credit toward the interest on a loan to repair a failing septic system, however, he questions how many poor residents will be able to obtain the loan in the first place.

“Most of our people do not have jobs to get the loan,” Vins said.

During Wednesday’s meeting the health board also put another group of septic tanks out for bid, which should exhaust the dollars the department applied for in 2012.

In other matters before the board:

– The health department will also apply for $72,979 in Local Government Innovation Funds. The money will be used to help the county health department partner with the East Liverpool and Salem health departments to create a required five-year assessment for the Center of Disease Control.

– Board member Dr. Jack Amato said hunters should be reminded the peak season for deer ticks is in October. With bow deer season about to begin, more hunters will be in the woods and while other pests may be dying off due to colder weather, deer ticks, which can carry Lyme Disease, thrive in the fall.