ALLEN COUNTY — A number of rural villages throughout Allen County will be seeing major upgrades to their sewer and/or water systems thanks to close to $8 million in grant dollars seeded by the Department of Agriculture’s rural utilities service water and environmental programs.
The federal agency announced grant funding for two major construction projects in Allen County Wednesday. They include the construction of a water distribution system to provide Harrod and Lafayette residents with clean drinking water and construction of a wastewater collection system to send Gomer sewage to a wastewater treatment facility in Lima.
The first of the two projects, estimated to cost $5.5 million, will eliminate the need for the individual wells that currently service close to 2,000 of the area’s residents in eastern Allen County. The project will also add fire hydrants throughout the area, which is expected to increase fire safety for Allen East schools and the 862 residents of Harrod and Lafayette.
As for the need for the project, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has found the presence of “fecal coliform bacteria” and other pathogens in the area, which are a risk of disease. Testing by the state agency also revealed a “higher-than-acceptable” amount of dissolved solids in the water, or hard water, which can corrode pipes and glassware.
“Access to an ample safe water supply is critical for more than 2,000 residents and students in the service area,” the USDA explained in its funding documents. “Modern water infrastructure also provides a solid foundation to support future rural economic growth.”
Roughly $2.8 million of the project’s cost is expected to be paid by a rural development grant. The remaining $2.7 million will be loaned to the Allen Water District, with a combination of local and federal agencies expected to help cover the cost. They include $1.5 million in funding from a Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant, $250,000 from the City of Lima, $150,000 from Allen County, $150,000 from the Allen County Sanitary Engineering Department and $250,000 from the water district.
The second project to be funded by the USDA will create a wastewater collection system for Gomer residents. The village’s current system improperly discharges wastewater into Gomer’s stormwater system, which then flows into the Ottawa and Maumee rivers, thereby creating harmful algal blooms.
Once completed, the new system will collect sewage from more than 360 residential and commercial properties and direct it to Lima’s treatment systems.
Federal grant dollars are expected to cover $1.2 million of the cost, with the remaining $1.3 million covered by a $750,000 Housing and Urban Community Development Block Grant, $250,000 from the Ohio Water Development Authority and $60,000 from Allen County.
The funding of the projects in Allen County are two of the three announced Wednesday by the USDA. The third rural development grant will update collection lines in Oak Harbor — a village in Ottawa County located in Rep. Bob Latta’s district.
The USDA’s rural water and environmental program is the only federal program to focus on such infrastructure needs of communities with populations smaller than 10,000.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.