Toledo needs millions of dollars to fix aging infrastructure

Toledo needs millions of dollars to fix aging infrastructure

Toledo, Ohio, is currently facing a crisis in which it needs $257 million in repairs made to its drinking water treatment plant, where worsening conditions and a lack of routine maintenance have sent the renovation price tag up over the years.

Now, according to the Toledo Blade, Mayor Mike Bell has announced that he will do whatever it takes – at whatever price – to pay for the extensive repairs that must be made to the facility.

"I am committed to whatever rate increases are necessary," Bell told City Council's utilities committee and representatives from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Bell is no stranger to increasing water and sewer rates for residents, having done so in 2010 in a similar campaign to raise funds. He stated that city leaders before him did not understand the gravity of the situation, and did not see the need to raise rates. This, he said, directly led to the near crumbling of the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant in East Toledo.

According to the news source, Bell's comments came after the Ohio EPA released two reports that severely criticized the way the city was handling the drinking water treatment plant. The report noted that city officials had been operating the facility for years with no preventative or EPA maintenance plan in place, and that this oversight could lead to catastrophic failure at any time.

The Ohio EPA is asking the city to make several expensive repairs, including an expansion of the facility that would be used while the other, problematic areas of the facility are shut down and fixed.

"I know that the reality is we have an EPA report that tells us we have things to deal with and fast," Bell said after a recent committee hearing. "We don't have the money, [and] we need to get this done."

According to the media outlet, Councilman Joe McNamara said that although he believes the facility needs serious repairs, it may not be acceptable to let all of the weight fall to the taxpayers.

"I think we absolutely have to do whatever is necessary to maintain the integrity of our drinking water but affordability to the ratepayer has to be a consideration in any rate structure,"  he said.

The EPA's report showed that the plant's roof above the flocculation and filter buildings was the most troubling, which was awaiting a $15 million renovation before the investigation. Since this grant, the town has agreed to perform more than $40 million worth of repairs, and another $15 million in renovations on the problematic roof.

The U.S. EPA has extensive resources on what is acceptable for drinking water treatment plants. Investigations regarding these regulations can lead to costly downtime for management personnel if the proper documentation is not kept. 

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