February 2019

Bryan Times 2-9-2019

Michindoh: AOP well site gets preliminary approval

report by Ron Osburn

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has preliminarily approved a proposed production water well near Fayette for Artesian of Pioneer.

The letter said the well site is located at 24668 County Road S, northwest of Fayette.

The EPA said the purpose of the letter “is to solicit public comments on the (draft) well site approval.”  It says a public information session will be held at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, March 12, at Fayette Local School, located at 400 E. Gamble Road, in Fayette.

In addition, the EPA will accept written comments at the public information session, or they can be mailed to: Ohio EPA, Division of Drinking and Ground Waters, Attn: Craig Smith, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, OH 43216-1049.  All comments received on or before 5 pm on Friday, March 15, 2019, will be considered.

The letter said “the proposed well site complies with the requirements of Ohio EPA in accordance with Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 3745-9, and the proposed well site is hereby accepted,” subject to AOP meeting a number of technical, planning, property lease/ownership and environmental conditions enumerated in the letter.

The letter is available at: http://edocpub.epa.ohio.gov/publicportal/ViewDocument.aspx?docid=992721

The letter does note, “This site approval shall become void two years from the date of this letter unless a formal plan approval has been issued.”

Dina Pierce, EPA spokesperson, termed the draft well site approval as “one very early step in a long (approval) process.”

(Reader alert:  I have intentionally omitted several paragraphs of background information covered in this article.)

Sherry Fleming, of the Williams County Alliance, a grass-roots citizens group that has helped coordinate opposition to AOP’s plan, said the group is exploring ways to make changes to current water use law.

“(EPA’S draft approval) proves that our laws need changed.  The EPA is just following the legal process.  We’re more disappointed that our state legislators are not offering any concrete steps or addressing this issue in any (meaningful) way,” Fleming said Friday.

Pierce said Thursday the EPA doesn’t generally hold public hearings on well site requests, but scheduled one in this instance because of the high public interest in the proposed project.  She also said the controversial nature of the project and the need to set a public hearing were reasons for the length of time between the site visit and the report.

Bryan Times Feb. 16, 2019

Water board commits to more testing

report by Jen Lazenby

The Henry County Regional Water and Sewer District Board of Trustees decided Wednesday it will provide additional funding to determine the feasibility of a water plant in the Fayette area.

In October, the water and sewer board of trustees approved an agreement with Artesian of Pioneer (AOP) to drill and test wells on behalf of a consortium of seven entities.  The district, villages of Liberty Center and Whitehouse, cities of Maumee, Sylvania and Perrysburg and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District are partnering for the project to see if that area could support a ground water plant which would supply drinking water to those communities.

On Wednesday, Henry County Planning Director Nick Rettig said a recent meeting of representatives from the seven entities and AOP included reviewing a list of multiple options of where to go from here.

The first option would be to finish out the original agreement, which includes drilling a production well and performing a 72-hour pumping and testing, plus a formal report from a hydrogeologist on the potential of the well field and the possible impact to surrounding areas.  This would also include a preliminary report on transmission costs prepared by Poggemeyer Design Group.  This would use the remaining $60,000 that is already committed to the project.

Option one is to take the information you have developed right now, which shows clearly there’s an enormous supply of water in this area that he has looked at,” Rex Huffman, legal counsel for the district, said, adding the test wells are producing 1,400 gallons per minute.  “We would then know what our transmission costs are.”

“He (AOP owner Ed Kidston) can probably tell us how much it’s going to cost to treat a gallon of water; he knows how much it’s going to cost to build a plant,” he added.  “The wild card here is how much is it going to cost to get the water from there to here?”

Each of the entities contributed $25,000 at the start of the project and that was based on the assumption AOP could utilize an existing well in the area for testing.  However, that was not approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, meaning an additional $60,000 is needed to complete that testing and that is the second option being considered.  Two subsets of the second option include additional funds for more modeling.  Huffman said the third option was developed by the hydrogeologist for even more modeling to better determine long-term impacts.

Another question is which entities will decide to continue pursuing the project.  Moving forward, the entities involved have decided additional funding will be provided proportionally by how much water each entity would utilize from the potential plant.  If all seven entities stay involved, the water and sewer district would pay 0.54 percent of the additional funds as it’s the smallest entity involved, followed by Liberty Center at 1.18 percent.  However, if some entities decide not to move forward, the percentages will increase accordingly.

From the last meeting with representatives, Rettig said the entities were leaning toward one of the subsets to the second option, which would cost an additional $148,440.  That would equal an extra $797 from the water and sewer district and $1,753 from Liberty Center.

“That included the production well, the modeling of the sustainability, the outreach and the transmission costs,” Rettig said, adding this next step will also make clearer how much water can be produced.

However, Huffman said he is uncertain whether the two largest entities — the Northwestern Water and Sewer District and Perrysburg, which both have 28 percent of water usage — will decide to continue on with the project.  Their respective boards, as well as Sylvania and Maumee, have not yet made a decision.

Liberty Center and Whitehouse have already committed additional funding toward continuing the project.  On Wednesday, the water and sewer board approved up to $3,000 to be put toward its share.

AOP has received preliminary approval from the Ohio EPA for the proposed production water well near Fayette.  The wells are sourced by the Michindoh Aquifer, which lies beneath nine counties in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.  Approximately 400,000 people within the aquifer currently withdraw an estimated 75 million gallons daily.  If the current seven entities do move forward with a plant, the average daily use would be approximately 15 million gallons per day.

The proposed plan has drawn opposition in the areas which are currently served by the aquifer, and board member Dean Dawson asked whether that opposition could stop the project at any point.

“What happens, at the end of the day, legally, if they can quash this?” Dawson said.

“You’ve spent a lot of money studying their aquifer that you won’t get back,” Huffman replied.

Dawson said that’s his concern, especially as the district is using a loan to fund its portion of the project.

“Each step we’re going into more and more funded debt and then we have to bounce back to whatever our plan B would be at this stage,” Dawson said, adding that would most likely be to the test wells in Washington Township.

Board Clerk/Treasurer Amy Behrman said the board has already committed $25,000 and the district has the lowest percentage of risk moving forward.

“If people drop out and that dollar (amount) changes, then we can reanalyze it at that point, but I think this next step for this amount, we’ve got to see it through,” Behrman said.

(Reader Alert: paragraph omitted about OEPA Hearing March 12)

Prior to the agreement for testing in this location, the water and sewer district and Liberty Center drilled a test well in northeast Washington Township in Henry County to see if that was a viable source of water, but that idea was placed on hold when the Michindoh option became more viable as discussions to form a water authority with the City of Toledo and nearby communities stalled and those entities began exploring other options.

The district and Liberty Center currently purchase water from the City of Napoleon, but issues over the cost of water led to the search for other potential sources, including purchasing water from nearby communities such as Defiance or Archbold.