Water plan has merit

A state lawmaker from the local area is working to ensure Ohioans have access to something we all need — safe, clean water.

Ohio Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, introduced a plan to leverage $1 billion from the Budget Stabilization Fund, or “Rainy Day Fund,” to help communities update water and sewerage systems. In addition to ensuring residents have access to water that is safe to drink and that wastewater is properly treated, Cera believes projects to improve this infrastructure would create jobs and spur economic growth.

The need for modern, efficient water treatment systems and related infrastructure has made headlines in recent months, both locally and nationally. From the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., to the manganese-tainted water that led to a “do not drink” order for the Scio water system, there have been plenty of examples of how insufficient equipment, old waterlines and other issues with treatment and distribution systems can create dangers for entire communities.

In 2014, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency cited the village of Bellaire for 27 violations related to its water treatment plant. The estimated cost to upgrade the facility is $4.5 million, not including the cost of repairing or replacing century-old waterlines. With such high price tags, setting money aside at the state level to fund such projects seems like a wise use of taxpayers’ dollars.

Under Cera’s proposal, the state would incrementally leverage up to $1 billion over five years from the Budget Stabilization Fund and offer communities low- or zero-interest loans. It also would require the General Assembly to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to authorize $1 billion in state general obligation bonds to fund sewer and water capital improvement grants, to be awarded over 10 years at $100 million a year.

“I’m always optimistic that sooner or later, the people in Columbus will wake up and realize we need to make investments in our communities,” Cera said.

We hope he is right and that other state lawmakers will support his proposal. The General Assembly should approve Cera’s bill.