July 2019

Bryan Times July 20, 2019

New Rules for state’s aquifers

report by Don Koralewski

Tucked into the bi-annual state budget that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed on Thursday morning are dozens of pages that apply specifically to Michindoh Aquifer protections — and, more broadly to groundwater source throughout the state of Ohio.

State Representative Jim Hoops and State Senator Rob McColley provided a brief on the legislation to Williams County Commissioners during their Thursday morning meeting — Hoops in person and McColley over the phone.  Also in attendance were local elected officials, including Bryan Mayor Carrie Schlade.

High points of the legislation are:

  • The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) will be the agency of authority with regard to all things groundwater — in essence, equating groundwater with other natural and mineral resources in the state;
  • Groundwater users will be able to point to large scale water consumers as a possible cause of negative impact on their wells, and ODNR will investigate and is authorized to order the possibly offending well shut down, or water draw slowed down.  Affected well owners will also be able to launch complaints without having to prove the source of their lost water flow  — they can point to other possible water users nearby, and the onus to prove that their wells aren’t responsible for affecting others’ wells will be on the suspected well owner; and
  • $500,000 has been set aside by the legislature for the study of aquifers north of the Maumee River.  Funding to be provided at $250,000 a year for the next two years.

The legislation was authored by Hoops in the House and McColley in the Senate, and was months in the making — beginning shortly after Artesian of Pioneer proposed drilling into the Michindoh and providing millions of gallons of aquifer water to communities around Toledo.

One of the first meetings in Columbus took place last summer with Williams County Commissioner Brian Davis and Bryan Mayor Carrie Schlade in attendance.  Hoops and McColley brought together senior staff from ODNR and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) to conduct an information and work session specifically in response to local concerns in Williams County.

It was reported that previous to this meeting aquifers in Ohio were not regulated the way surface water sources were, or specifically which agencies had authority over groundwater usage.  There was nothing in state law that prohibited large scale commercial draw of groundwater.

Since then, the legislators report that they have been working with state agencies to draft and move state legislation.

“What we found is that we had a system in the state of Ohio, but the system really was not very well thought out and it was lacking,” said Sen. McColley.  “One thing that we did is we said look, we need to go in here and make sure that the experts in the state government are the ones who have oversight of this.”

Basically the EPA was the agency responsible for monitoring the withdrawal of water from these aquifers.

“The EPA even admitted to Jim and I in our meetings that they lacked the technical expertise for that.  The EPA is more concerned about water quality.  They are concerned about the quality of your drinking water, they’re concerned about the quality of surface water.  They don’t have the technical expertise to be able to  evaluate the physics and the hydrodynamics and everything of that nature as it concerns the potential impact of withdrawing from an aquifer,” said McColley.

In addition to delineating responsibility for groundwater withdrawal, the legislation provides for scientific study and evaluation of the aquifer.

“How is it (the aquifer) affected if something happens,” asked Hoops.  “No one really has any idea of how this aquifer actually works.  We heard people on one side saying ‘it’s going to recharge.’ Then we had people on the other side saying, ‘no it’s not.’  We really don’t know how it’s going to affect it.

“What USGS said is you just need more science,” said Hoops.

The legislation provides a total of $500,000 for study of the aquifer, which will include installation of monitor wells and data evaluation.

“The process requires information to make sure that the aquifer is not being detrimentally impacted, and actually prescribes remedies and potential remedies from the government and for the private citizen that may be brought in the event that the aquifer may be detrimentally impacted,” said McColley.

“We feel this strikes a good balance in what needs to be done to ensure that the aquifer is protected and everybody can rest easy that there’s not going to be a detrimental impact on the water supply.”

Williams County Commissioner Lewis Hilkert thanked the legislators for their work.  “It’s been a long process and tedious process, but thank you for doing this for not only our area, but also for the state of Ohio.”

Commission President Terry Rummel said the legislation may have provided a workable balance for proponents and opponents of large scale commercial water draws from the aquifer.  “We probably hit the middle ground, and it is probably where we needed to be,” said Rummel.

Bryan Mayor Carrie Schlade commended Hoops and McColley for their work as well.

“I think this is an example of government working the way that it should,” said Schlade.  “The constituents reached out to us as local officials.  We reached out to our senator and state representative.  They then got the adequate groups around them in Columbus, and unfortunately for the last 12 months, nobody has really been able to speak about it to anyone because of the powers that be, the political backlash and quite frankly there were things that they needed to work through to try to avoid all those unintended consequences that we all keep talking about.

“So, I appreciate their ability to reach something that is bipartisan, that helps all of us.  And the fact that they are there listening to us when we bring our constituents’ concerns to them, which is exactly what all of our jobs are.

The AOP project is still awaiting an ODNR permit for a test well in Fayette, which Hoops said has been delayed due to continued consideration of public comment received during an EPA public hearing in Fayette.

Bryan Times, July 31, 2019

Tri-state council of governments holds first meeting in Williams County.  

report by Don Koralewski

A newly formed council of governments held its first organizational meeting Tuesday in Bryan.

The council is the result of local efforts to band together governmental bodies from the nine counties in three states that draw water from the Michindoh Aquifer — Williams, Fulton and Definace counties in the State of Ohio; Lenawee, Hillsdale and Branch counties of the State of Michigan; and Steuben, DeKalb and Allen counties of the State of Indiana.

The council of government, formally called the Ohio, Michigan, Indiana Council of Government 9OMI), marks its first priorities as identifying the aquifer boundaries through scientific studies for the purpose of future monitoring.

First to sign onto the council were Williams County Commissioners, as the board drafted the bylaws for the organization, adopted them in June and forwarded the document to other aquifer counties.  Since then, governing boards in each of the other eight counties have reviewed the document and offered their input for a finalized document.

Tuesday’s meeting of the OMI was not all inclusive of the anticipated makeup of the board.  Steuben County, Indiana; Hillsdale County, Michigan; and Defiance County and Williams County, Ohio, were in attendance.  Due to scheduling constraints, other sounties will be participating but were unable to take action prior to this meeting.

I am very excited that we have begun the process and that OMI being established will now be the mechanism for state and federal funding for future projects such as identifying and monitoring our aquifer,” said Williams County Commissioner Brian Davis.  “We look forward to welcoming additional members in the very near future.”