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Ohio counties look to renovate household sewage treatment systems

Story by Olivia Miltner, CGM Staff Writer

Homes in 6 southeast Ohio counties will undergo renovations after Hocking, Meigs, Morgan, Morrow, Muskingum and Perry counties received loans from the Ohio EPA to repair or replace home sewage treatment systems for low-income residents.

Each county received 56,000 dollars in loans in October with the hopes eliminating failing sewage treatment systems and decreasing any potential health concerns while improving local water quality and aquatic life, according to Erin Strouse, Media Relations Coordinator for the Ohio EPA.

“It should improve both public health and water quality by removing the risk of exposure to raw and/or partially treated sewage from failing on-lot systems. This benefits recreational enjoyment of our rivers and streams, aquatic life, even property values,” Strouse said.

Wendy Hanna, Environmental Director at the Hocking County Health Department, also noted how sewage treatment affects communities, as failing sewage treatment systems can harm homeowners and neighbors.

“Sewage carries many disease-causing organisms, pollutes surface and ground water, and provides breeding area for mosquitoes.  A failed system also negatively impacts property values and the overall enjoyment of the home,” Hanna said.


In a press release announcing the loan, the EPA said that a participant could “receive this WPCLF funding with either 85 percent or 100 percent in principal forgiveness (which does not need to be repaid),” depending on a participant’s income and household size. It also said that the program would save each county an estimated “87,736-90,288 dollars over the 20-year lives of the loans when compared to the market rate.”

Around 15 percent of household sewage treatment systems (HSTS) in the southeast district were reported to be failing, according to a 2012 Ohio Department of Health survey. The southeast district includes 5 of the counties receiving loans and has a smaller failure rate than the the state average of 31 percent, largely driven by central and northern areas of Ohio. In total, the ODE estimates that the total number of failing systems could exceed 250,000 across the state.

“Generally, many of the on-site systems [in these 6 counties have been described as ‘failing’ and in need of repair or replacement,” Strouse said. “Many HSTS are septic systems, however, there are other types of systems, approved and not, that fall under the umbrella of HSTS, too.”

Eligibility for the WPCLF loans and repairs depends on a few factors, including income and household side. People who can receive 100 percent principal forgiveness are either at or below the poverty level in Ohio. For example, to qualify, a home with 1 to 4 residents would need to have an income less than or equal to 22,050 dollars a year. However, people who make up to double the poverty level are eligible for 85 percent principal forgiveness, so a family between 1 and 4 people could make up to 44,100 dollars and only need to be able to pay the 15 remaining percent before installation begins.

Sewage Treatment Plants for Rural Homes
Sewage Treatment Plants for Rural Homes

Once a resident’s eligibility is verified, the county holds a bid to determine which business will carry out the repairs.

“The Health Department writes up a permit for bidding, which is sent to registered installers who are interested in participating in the program. Several homes are bundled into a contract and the installer with the lowest bid is chosen for that contract,” Hanna said. “Once work is completed and approved, payment request is sent to the EPA which then issues a check to the county which in turn pays the installer.”

Health departments are also cognisant of the worry owners may have when calling about the program if they feel like they would be “turning themselves in,” and work to protect caller’s privacy while the decision is being made.

“We tried to let everyone know that we do not have caller ID on our phone system and when people did call, we had a list of questions for them to make sure they were eligible before asking for the address,” Hanna said.

More information, including an application for repairs, can be found the the local county health department. As for Hanna, she hopes that Hocking County will see continued support for this program into the future.

“We really wish the program would continue as it has greatly benefitted many of our residents who could not afford to repair or replace their failed systems,” Hanna said.


Household income must be 100% of the current Federal Poverty Level

Persons in Household

Poverty Guideline 100%

1 to 4











If you do not meet the above income guidelines but are in the eligibility requirements listed below you can qualify for 85% of the septic repair costs.   You must have the remaining 15% before work can begin.

Persons in Household

Poverty Guideline 200%

1 to 4












Olivia Miltner is from Columbus, OH, and is a journalism student at Ohio University. She loves classical mythology and old movies, but Kung Fu Panda will always have a special place in Olivia’s heart…

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