Aqua Ohio Plans to Invest $12M in Local Projects

STRUTHERS, Ohio — Aqua Ohio plans to spend $12 million this year on new projects in the Mahoning Valley as part of a $41.9 million investment to upgrade infrastructure across the state.

“We’re putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to investing in the Mahoning Valley,” says Jennifer Johnson, area manager.

Last year, the company completed a $12 million renovation to its water treatment plant in Poland, she says. This plant serves customers in Poland, Struthers, Lowellville, and New Middletown, plus Boardman, Canfield, Poland, Springfield, Coitsville and Beaver townships.

Meanwhile, Aqua has also expressed interest in purchasing the systems that serve Campbell and Youngstown.

“Investment in the Valley didn’t stop there,” Johnson says. The company also commissioned a 500,000-gallon water tower in Canfield Township that will help support economic development in that area. This investment is on top of the $2.5 million new operations center in Struthers that opened in December 2017.

“These efforts speak to a strong future for our water system and our customers here in the Valley,” she says.

Regulatory changes also helped Aqua’s wastewater customers, Johnson says. The company worked with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to classify new investment in sewage treatment plants as pollution control devices, thereby easing tax burdens on the company and ultimately relieving pressures for future rate increases on customers.

Changes in tax laws helped customers in two ways, Johnson continues. First, these changes allowed the company to reduce rates by 4.2% in systems with locally negotiated agreements such as those in the Mahoning Valley. Second, the company was also able to further reduce planned annual increases through 2021, she says.

Aqua used the past year to drive legislation that changed rules that regulate water and wastewater utilities in Ohio, Johnson adds.

On Jan. 4, former Gov. John Kasich signed into law House Bill 422. The law establishes new guidelines for setting the amount Aqua can pay to purchase water and wastewater systems. This is important, especially to communities struggling to meet stringent health and environmental requirements. The new rules will set system values based on the evaluation of third party experts.

“This could make partnership agreements more attractive to communities facing financial challenges and help Aqua continue to grow,” Johnson says.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.