2020 marked another successful year of enhanced services to Ohio’s businesses and communities through Ohio EPA’s Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance (DEFA). Through our team’s efforts, we surpassed prior years of assistance and service to our customers. DEFA serves as a one-stop shop for customers seeking technical and financial resources to help them achieve compliance.
In 2020, we reached out to thousands of businesses and communities throughout Ohio to increase the awareness of services and resources available through DEFA, and we look forward to even greater technical and financial assistance in the coming year. Below are some highlights from 2020.
Water Pollution Control Loan Fund (WPCLF)
In 2020, Ohio EPA awarded WPCLF loans totaling more than $577 million to Ohio communities. Principal forgiveness (grant-like) funding totaling nearly $11 million was made available to help communities address failing household sewage treatment systems (HSTS). In addition, close to $28 million in principal forgiveness was made available to provide collection capacity in unsewered areas and address other infrastructure priorities, particularly in economically disadvantaged and small communities.
Water Supply Revolving Loan Account (WSRLA) Program
In 2020, Ohio EPA awarded WSRLA loans totaling more than $300 million to help communities address drinking water infrastructure needs. In addition, about $15 million in principal forgiveness funding was made available to help small, disadvantaged communities.
Addressing Statewide Priorities through Ohio’s SRF Programs
Ohio EPA leverages financial resources through our SRF and grant programs to address some of the state’s most significant water quality challenges, including harmful algal blooms (HABs), failing household septic systems, lead, and combined sewer overflows. Working in partnership with other public funding partners, providing incentives for innovative approaches, and offering flexible financing terms have been effective strategies to help our communities in addressing these challenges.
H2Ohio: Long-Term, Cost-Effective Water Quality Solutions
H2Ohio is Governor Mike DeWine’s comprehensive, data-driven water quality initiative to reduce harmful algal blooms, improve wastewater infrastructure, and prevent lead contamination. In state fiscal year 2020, Ohio EPA received $8.675 million in H2Ohio funds to make available to projects supporting focus areas of the H2Ohio Initiative. DEFA awarded a total of $1.75 million to seven local health districts in the western Lake Erie basin.
Health districts in Erie, Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, Sandusky, Williams, and Wood counties each received $250,000 to help low-income homeowners address failing septic systems. Seven communities or service providers received a total of $4.21 million to address inadequate or unsafe drinking water and to extend sewer service to unsewered areas. The Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) received $725,000 to remove lead service lines serving childcare facilities. It is expected that the funding will allow GCWW to offer complete lead service line replacement for 185 childcare facilities.
Helping Businesses with Environmental Regulations and Permitting
DEFA’s Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention (OCAPP) provides free and confidential assistance to help businesses comply with environmental requirements. OCAPP responded to more than 13,000 environmental assistance requests from Ohio businesses, communities, and other organizations during 2020. This included assistance completing 2,603 forms, including permit applications and other Ohio EPA paperwork. OCAPP staff participated in 40 presentations and training events, reaching more than 1,100 people with information on a variety of environmental compliance topics. DEFA hosted 17 webinars covering a variety of topics, including environmental compliance, funding, and reporting. More than 5,400 people participated in DEFA’s webinars or viewed our archived library of training materials during 2020. Popular webinar topics included:
- Virtual Assistance and Resources from Ohio EPA and Ohio BWC
- Open Dumping of Solid Waste and Scrap Tires
- Recycling and Litter Prevention Grant Application Process
- Lead Service Line Replacement Funding
DEFA also launched a new In Your Community webinar series focusing on environmental issues impacting the local area. These webinars occur throughout the year, covering a wide range of topics. They include how Ohio EPA regulates sources of air pollution, waste management, wastewater and stormwater discharges, to ways communities can promote environmental stewardship and improve the environment in the local area.
Ohio EPA’s Virtual Compliance Assistance Conference
Ohio EPA’s first free virtual compliance assistance conference was held over three weeks Sept. 21 through Oct. 8, 2020, with 7,630 people logging on to 20 different sessions and interacting virtually. Sessions had polling to engage the participants and opportunities to ask questions. Certificates for continuing education credits were included for each session and all sessions were recorded for those who could not attend or who wanted to review a session more closely.
Ohio’s Materials Marketplace: Year Three Accomplishments
The Ohio Materials Marketplace (OMM), launched in 2017, is a free online platform connecting businesses to recycling and reuse solutions for their waste and by-product challenges. Ohio businesses, not-for-profits, and government organizations can list available products and materials that would otherwise be destined for the landfill. Ohio EPA manages and markets OMM with help from the United States Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Ohio By-Product Synergy Network, and Ohio’s solid waste management districts. To date, more than 1,100 members have joined OMM and 3.8 million pounds of materials have been exchanged for reuse and diverted from landfills, saving members more than $230,000.
Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) Program
Ohio EPA’s E3 Program recognizes businesses, organizations, and government entities for achievements in environmental stewardship. During 2020, Ohio EPA acknowledged eight Gold Level, and seven Silver Level E3 recipients. This was the fourth year Ohio EPA recognized organizations at the Platinum Level for their efforts to expand their environmental sustainability programs beyond their own facility to make a positive impact on their surrounding community with four organizations recognized at the E3 Platinum Level.
Encouraging Environmental Excellence in Education (E4) Program
This program recognizes any K-12 public or private school for its achievements in environmental stewardship and efforts to educate students on environmental topics. In 2020, nine schools were recognized for their environmental stewardship, including Magnificat High School in Rocky River. Magnificat was one of two schools to receive Leaf Class recognition in 2020, the highest level in the E4 program. Director Stevenson hosted the first virtual E4 recognition ceremony with Magnificat in May 2020.
Encouraging Environmental Excellence in Communities (E3C)
Recognizing local government and community achievements in environmental stewardship, this program launched in late 2020. The E3C Program has three levels of recognition that recognize communities in different stages of implementing environmental stewardship initiatives through environmental, economic and social programs and activities: Implementation, Stewardship, and Sustainable. Communities and local governments can apply at any time through a simple online application.
Recycling and Litter Prevention Grant Program
The recycling and litter prevention grant program was established in 1981 and has helped support the 50-year journey of Earth Day. In the 39 years since the program’s inception, more than $240 million has been awarded to more than 4,400 projects.
Improving Curbside Recycling
Ohio EPA continues to tackle the issue of contamination in curbside recycling by investing in education and outreach pilot projects around the state. DEFA’s Recycling and Litter Prevention Grant Program awarded five grants to a strategically and geographically diverse group of communities to work with The Recycling Partnership creating a toolkit and best management practices for replicable success statewide.
Reaching Our Customers Electronically
DEFA’s outreach efforts include monthly eBlasts, a quarterly newsletter, and blog posts. Our eBlasts contain information on upcoming regulatory changes, funding opportunities, training, and other resources. DEFA’s quarterly newsletters contain more detailed updates and a range of articles related to environmental compliance, water, and wastewater infrastructure development, and sustainability efforts. Our 2020 eBlasts and newsletters reached an audience of more than 16,000 subscribers. We distributed 12 monthly DEFA eBlast updates and 70 special eBlasts for DEFA totaling 807,918 in 2020.
Looking forward, in 2021, DEFA will continue to focus on proactive outreach efforts to ensure Ohio’s businesses and communities are aware of the many resources available to help meet their environmental and financial assistance-related goals.
We appreciate the support from all our stakeholders and look forward to another busy and productive year in 2021. If you have any questions or need more information about our services, contact us at (614) 644-3469 or visit our website at . You can access our DEFA 2020 Annual Report at epa.ohio.gov/Portals/29/documents/2020AnnualReport.pdf.
Some of the DEFA resources and services available are:
- Providing environmental and financial assistance to support H2Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine’s comprehensive, data-driven water quality initiative to reduce harmful algal blooms (HABs), improve wastewater infrastructure, and prevent lead contamination.
- State revolving fund (SRF) loan programs helping communities construct and maintain wastewater and drinking water infrastructure.
- Funding to help communities address water quality issues from combined sewer overflows, failing home sewage treatment systems, nutrients, and lead.
- Technical assistance helping small community wastewater treatment plants improve operations and efficiency.
- A compliance assistance program helping small businesses with environmental regulations through on-site visits, help completing applications and forms, training, and plain-English publications.
- Funding supporting recycling, litter cleanup, scrap tire management, and market development for recyclables such as glass, plastics, rubber, and construction and demolition debris.
- The Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) program, recognizing the outstanding efforts of businesses, communities, and other entities making a commitment to environmental stewardship.
- The Ohio Materials Marketplace, an online tool facilitating the reuse of materials through a collaborative network of businesses, organizations, and entrepreneurs.