Stark County looking to use CARES Act funds to repair septic systems

  • Stark County is considering a plan to use $450,000 of CARES Act funds to help low-income homeowners repair their septic tanks.
  • Officials estimate the funds could fund between 24 and 32 projects.
  • The proposal requires the approval of the district commissioners.

The Department of Health has a long list of Stark County homeowners who need help paying for their septic tank repairs.

The agency receives approximately $150,000 a year from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Pollution Control Loan Fund to administer a program that provides assistance to low- to middle-income households in need of home wastewater treatment replacement or repair.

At the current level of funding, it would take about three years to complete the list.

“It’s not a lot of money for the number of people on our list to fix these systems,” said Paul DePasquale, Stark County director of environmental health.

Now, county officials want to use $450,000 of the remaining Community Development Block Grant CARES Act funds to help more low-income homeowners update their broken plumbing systems.

In 2021, district commissioners approved $1.1 million in CARES Act funds for the Department of Health to assist businesses outside of Canton, Massillon and Alliance with safety initiatives in response to the pandemic. The board must approve the proposed use of funds before the plan can be implemented. Commissioners are likely to take action on the matter at some point over the next few weeks, according to Administrator Brant Luther.

Diane Sheridan, director of community development at the Stark County Regional Planning Commission, said the remaining funds from the CARES Act must be used to respond to COVID-19 or any future infectious diseases. The regional planning commission asked the health department to determine its needs. Officials pointed to the need to replace the county’s sewage system.

“Stark County has the most sanitation systems in the state of Ohio,” said Todd Paulus, chief of the Stark County Health Department. “There are an estimated 43,000 sewage systems. So there is a real need in this community to help people who need help.”

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, failure of sewage treatment plants can lead to sewage backlogs in homes, groundwater contamination and algal blooms in nearby bodies of water.

Josh Tully, owner of Bosley Drain and Septic in Louisville, said he’s seen many septic tanks from the 1950s and 1960s that are clogged and need replacing.

“In recent years we have seen numerous systems that have failed,” he said. “A lot of this came from COVID. There were more people in the houses, more water was used. People work at home now. The children were homeschooled. That more water has flowed into the systems that made them every day.” Systems fail even more.”

Josh Tully, owner of Bosley Drain & Septic, mixes cement while working to replace a septic tank riser at a home in Lawrence Township.

Tully said there are many families who cannot afford to replace their tanks and are taking out loans to pay for it.

How many systems will be replaced?

Health Department officials estimate the funds will replace between 24 and 32 systems, but the exact number of projects will depend on the cost and scale of each.

The ministry already has a list of homeowners from its grant program, which covers a percentage of a project’s cost based on the household’s total income and the number of people living in the home. Program requirements include that the home is occupied by the owner and located in Stark County and that applicants are current on their property taxes.

Sheridan said there are certain income requirements that individuals must meet on the part of the regional planning commission, including being less than 80 percent of the region’s median income.

The Regional Planning Commission will facilitate the repairs, similar to how they do CDBG and HOME rehabilitation work. The county health department manages permits, fees, soil surveys, schedules contractors, and coordinates work with the Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Health will also use $29,400 for administrative expenses.

According to the Regional Planning Commission, the department will have approximately $177,000 of remaining funding to continue outreach on corporate safety related to COVID, with a particular focus on childcare centers outside of Canton, Massillon and Alliance.

Sheridan said the agencies are working on a contract change and plan to start the projects as soon as possible.

Reach Paige at 330-580-8577, [email protected] or on Twitter @paigebenn.

Josh Tully, owner of Bosley Drain & Septic, replaces part of a septic tank in a Lawrence Township home.

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