New Boston-The seventh phase (Phase Seven) of an eight-phase plan is now underway for the Village of New Boston, Ohio. In 2006, an Administrative Order issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) challenged the Village and its leaders to confront the daunting, seemingly impossible task of addressing combined sewer overflow (CSO) issues. The Village had been experiencing CSOs whenever the volume of collected rainwater, sewage, and industrial wastewater exceed the capacity of their aging combined sewer system, causing overflows to discharge directly into the Ohio River, and polluting the river with untreated waste.
Faced with a situation that would intimidate most, Steve Hamilton remembers the first few months in his role as village administrator as unpredictable, even more so once he discovered the daily fines being accrued by frequent CSOs. Hamilton envisioned a comprehensive, synergetic solution that required enhanced communication and strengthened relationships between New Boston and the US EPA, the Ohio EPA Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance (DEFA), Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Strand Associates, Inc.®, and Village constituents. He saw these relationships as critical to improving the environmental issues plaguing his community. Hamilton noted, “As river communities, we are all on the line to make sure that water going back into the river is clean. We must hold ourselves accountable.”
Identifying adequate funding to support the eight-phase project was Hamilton’s top priority. With some timely assistance and a lot of hard work, the Village was able to obtain its first DEFA loan and principal forgiveness (PF) funding. The success of each project phase enabled the Village to garner funding for subsequent phases. “We showed just how serious we are about cleaning up the Village and eliminating the overflow discharges,” explained Mayor William Williams, Jr.
One of the main project objectives is the division of the combined sewage infrastructure into two separate systems – one stormwater system and one sanitary sewage system. The project involves the installation of sanitary pipes and storm lines beginning at the fringes of the community and progressing inward towards the center. Phase Seven will continue to build upon the separation of sanitary and stormwater systems from earlier phases. The construction project is anticipated to take approximately nine months, with an estimated total cost of $1.92 million, fully funded by PF funding through DEFA. The Village’s sewer separation projects will drastically decrease the frequency of future overflows and the likelihood of further pollution of the Ohio River.
Initial project phases have required minimal funding from local financial resources, which can be attributed to the leadership, community, and regulatory agencies that have provided assistance. “We always try to stay within the means of our community,” said Mayor Williams. Behind all of this is the additional support established by partnerships that have been made along the way, such as those between government agencies and the community. Proactivity towards the issues at hand and acceptance of full responsibility have helped to establish pivotal turning points throughout the project, thus far.
“One of the best things that happened was the strong relationship with Strand,” Hamilton said of Strand Associates, Inc.®. The engineering firm assisted in the creation of a long-term control plan to avert frequent overflows into the Ohio River, and also assisted Village staff in determining how to implement the loan and PF funding. While New Boston is still challenged by modest household incomes, the improvements that have been made and the commitment to service exhibited by Village officials is fostering strong working relationships. This ensures a brighter future for all Village residents and businesses. “We are looking to change the outlook and make New Boston the ‘place to be’,” said Mayor Williams.
While strong leadership has been essential to project success, the current level of progress also greatly relied upon valuable input from a handful of individuals who took it upon themselves to emphasize community involvement within each phase of the project. “…we couldn’t have done that without the relationships with the U.S. EPA, DEFA, Strand, the Village Council, Mayor, and residents who all came together as one for the betterment of the Village,” Hamilton said. Despite the odds, New Boston has been able achieve success through examining each phase individually, and approaching each issue with a mentality of honesty, faith, trust, and commitment.