Stormwater taxes and Cuyahoga River catching fire…oh yes, they’re related..

Three of us met with Mr. Tim Miller, Director of the Lake County Stormwater Management Department and Jason Boyd, Lake County Administrator.  All three of us were very impressed with both gentlemen; good stewards of the taxpayers’ money, and both wanting to do their very best for the citizens of Lake County.

Those of us old enough will remember when the Cuyahoga River caught fire – it is ancient history to the younger generations.  Well that event caught the attention of the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency…cue the Darth Vader music…

In 2003, an unfunded mandate called the Clean Water Act was enacted with two phases:
Phase 1 was meant to solve the “point source pollution” problem.  Prior to this law, the axiom for the getting rid of hazardous wastes was “The solution for pollution is dilution”.  Companies were getting rid of hazardous wastes by pumping it through pipes and discharging it into creeks, streams and rivers thinking that nature would magically take care of the problems created by their production by-products.

Phase 2 deals with the natural runoff of by-products used by humans, and has rules and regulations for farmers, industry and residential property.

Not to be outdone by the Federal Government, the State of Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, covered under Ohio Revised Code 6117, now is controlling the storm water management.

For more details on the mission of the Stormwater Management Department here is a link to their website:

To pay for the unfunded mandate to clean up our environment, in 2003, Lake County residents were polled to determine how much they would be willing to pay, and a range of $2.00 – $5.00 per month was acceptable to the citizens at that time.  The Department settled on a charge of $3.50 per month.  On your real estate tax bill under “special assessments” you will see a charge of $21.00 every six months under the Project #19-901 Stormwater.

Although the federal and state permits apply to all municipalities, villages, and townships, the county government serves as the coordinator for most of the municipalities, with Wickliffe having their own department.  This allows smaller villages to comply with the mandate at a much lower cost.  It is also interesting in that the shared cost permits greater cooperation, since the villages, townships, and cities know that pollution impacts all communities and helping one community can also benefit the others that may be “downstream” from the problem area.

The residents of Waite Hill, North Perry Village, and Leroy are not currently subject to the stormwater assessment fee since they do not meet the minimum standards required of an “urban area” as defined by the federal and state government rules. However, it is conjectured that may change in the future.

One of the missions of Lake County Stormwater Management Department is to educate the residents on how they can help maintain a clean Lake Erie.  They advertise on the radio on 97.1, 93.7, 102.5 FM and 970 AM.

Here is a schedule of the amounts paid by each community enrolled in the Stormwater Management for the years 2017 – 2018.   They pay in over $5,000,000 per year.

Stormwater Fees Paid 2017 and 2018

Their budget for the year 2018 is $5,084,700 with $4,000,000 of it to be spent on capital projects:

Stormwater Mgmt Budget 2018

We understand why the Stormwater Department was created and agree with the need to ensure that we have a clean environment.  The $3.50 per month fee is a way to share the cost of ensuring a clean environment with all of the citizens in Lake County.  However, if Lake County is pristine but other counties and states that drain into Lake Erie are not as diligent then all of our work and expenditures are wasted.

There is another problem that may not have a solution, that is the rock salt that is dumped on our roads by the tons in the winter.  All of that rock salt, or its residual, ultimately finds its way to Lake Erie; it is not collected and treated before it reaches the Lake.

We ask that all of Lake County residents be aware of how they can impact the environment so that we can ensure that we all have clean, safe drinking water.  We have offered to be another point of distribution of information for the Stormwater Management Department.

Thanks to Tim and Jason for taking the time to educate us on the role of this department.


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