GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County Commissioners conversed with Ohio Environmental Protection Agency representatives Thursday as part of efforts to spread awareness as to programs offered by OEPA.
Holly Tucker, chief of OEPA’s Southeast District Office, and Joy Padgett, of the OEPA Division of Environmental and Financial Office of Outreach and Customer Support, appeared to speak with commissioners.
“I wanted to be able to introduce myself,” Tucker said. “I’ve been chief of the Southeast District Office a little under a year so far and I wanted to make sure that you were comfortable with our agency. So many people hear OEPA and think, ‘Oh, no’ because we’re a regulatory agency. My goal was to come down and be able to provide you an overview of our programs and hear of any environmental concerns that you may have. We want to make sure that we’re providing you with the best service that we can.”
Tucker detailed programs assisting with drinking water problems, storm water as well as program experts able to assist with solid waste regulation and other such issues. OEPA offers services to businesses as well as public entities.
Tucker introduced Padgett after speaking. While working with the office of outreach and customer support, her goal is to help communities and businesses access compliance, technical and financial assistance for an organization’s environmental needs. Padgett said the organization was created to work with organizations before potentially getting in trouble with environmental regulations and to help an organization “get out of trouble” after its initial notice letter of violation. The group is geared to help organizations avoid violations.
“I’m kind of like the ‘connect the dots’ person,” Padgett said.
Padgett discussed recycling and litter prevention grants as well as on-site pollution prevention assistance programs. Padgett told commissioners that the OEPA was not there just for its “regulatory side” but that they often worked with client groups looking to become more green through confidential information practices.
Commissioner Harold Montgomery said one of the chief concerns with local projects was always funding, especially in areas considered rural and low income. He referenced a desire that residents may need help with such things like “tap fees” and “connections” for residents who use water-based projects. He said many residents fall just outside of socioeconomic parameters that would qualify them for programs and that paying such costs may become a “financial burden.” County officials discussed how they had used grant money to cover tap fees for local residents in previous sewer projects because of local financial burdens.
OEPA officials agreed money was always an issue to be concerned with and that they felt there would soon be more of a national push in the future to tackle water infrastructure problems as equipment and hardware age. Nothing was decided Thursday.
County officials and state officials exchanged contact information and shared concerns to better consider solutions for the future. One of Gallia County Administrator Karen Sprague’s concerns were in regard to the CDBG grant for which the county annually applies. The money has often been one of the few avenues used for Gallia County infrastructure projects. OEPA and county officials discussed funding issues and how to go about tackling them in the future.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.