Jeremy Rentz, PhD

Bryan Times, Nov. 17, 2018, (report by Ron Osburn, Michindoh Aquifer explained)  Withdrawing 10 million gallons of water per day from the Michindoh Aquifer from sites near Fayette would have a “significant” impact on Williams County, according to Jeremy Rentz, an environmental engineering professor at Trine University.

“That one, single project would dwarf any single water user collectively across the county.  It would instantly be the second largest water withdrawer in the aquifer,” Rentz told about 125 people during a 90-minute presentation and question-and-answer session at the Pioneer Community Center Thursday evening.

The Michindoh Aquifer is an underground water source that stretches across nine counties in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.  It provides water for an estimated 400,000 people living in parts of those states and is the sole source of water for Williams County.

Artesian of Pioneer, owned by Pioneer Mayor Ed Kidston, currently is drilling test wells into the Michindoh at a site owned by Kidston south of Fayette, in anticipation of selling anywhere from 4 to 14 million gallons per day to entities outside Williams County.

Rentz on Thursday did not specifically mention Artesian of Pioneer or Kidston but he did question the long-term “sustainability” of withdrawing another 10 million gallons per day from the Michindoh.

Rentz showed a graphic of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources well log, showing the location of several thousand wells in Williams, Defiance and Fulton counties.  He said while some wells could be abandoned, others are operational and represent “all the people that could potentially be impacted.

“An awful lot of people use this aquifer as a resource.  The impact, how many people this project affects, is quite significant,” said Rentz, who was invited to speak by the Williams County Alliance, a local grassroots group that is actively opposing AOP’s plan.

Rentz noted that groundwater depletion, or withdrawing water from an underground aquifer faster than it can be replenished, “is rampant” across the United States, citing examples such as the Ogallala Aquifer in the Great Plains.

“There’s been too many examples of pumping and pumping and pumping, and now you’ve got significant problems,” he said.

He pointed out that 10 million gallons per day is 25 percent of the amount of groundwater currently being withdrawn from the aquifer in Williams, Fulton, Hillsdale, and Lenawee counties.

“It’s something that’s a concern to me,” said Rentz.

Rentz explained the Michindoh Aquifer is not a solid underground body of water, like a river or lake, but is water that occupies the nooks and crannies between the layers of sand and gravel.  In addition, the sand and gravel aquifer layer lies in a confined space between layers of clay and bedrock, and clay has very low permeability (i.e., water does not flow through it very easily).

He said in some locations the sand and gravel is very thick and wells can produce a lot of water, while in other areas the aquifer is thinner, producing less water.

He also said rates the aquifer is replenished by rainwater and surface water  vary depending on the thickness of the layers of clay.  For instance, in some areas of the Michindoh — around Angola, Indiana, for instance — the recharge rate is up to10 inches per year, while a band from Pioneer to Edgerton recharges at 2 inches or less per year.

He also noted that groundwater flows very, very slowly, at about 6 feet per day (for comparison, a snail can travel 3,800 feet a day).  That means the rate of recharge within a pump’s radius of influence — or how far away from the well the effects of groundwater withdrawal are felt — is very, very slow.

“This water travels very, very, very slowly and that’s one of the things that causes some concern,” he said, noting that once a significant amount of water is withdrawn from the aquifer, it cannot be replenished fast enough.

Rentz said he extrapolated data from a Michindoh Aquifer study done by Alban W. Coen in 1989, which was incorporated into the City of Bryan’s larger 2007 Sole Source Aquifer Petition, which was not adopted by the state.

Rentz pointed out the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency mandates that if a water system is to supply 10 million gallons per day, the system must actually be able to pump 20 million gallons daily, which requires a larger number of pumping wells, which in turn impacts a much larger area and number of people.

“For this reason I urge you to call your elected officials and ask them to do further studies,” Rentz said, noting that while he can provide educational data, he’s unable to perform data modeling on the aquifer, which he said is really the only way “to find out how much “the withdrawal” will actually impact you.”

He suggested those in attendance contact the Ohio Water Resource Center in Columbus, which could be a resource for the data modelling.  The website is https://wrc.osu.edu/.

Rentz also suggested that the communities near Toledo can access all the water they need from smaller aquifers underneath the communities, or from the Maumee River.  He also said technology exists to use reclaimed water, plus the Lucas County Water Resource Recovery Facility (wastewater plant) plans to expand its capacity to 30 million gallons per day.

The presentation was taped and is available on Bryan cable television, and at the Bryan Municipal Utilities You Tube website.