March 2019

Bryan Times March 5, 2019

AOP opening Michigan water system

Report by Ron Osburn

(Reader Alert: This article is not copied in its entirety.  Portions repetitive of old information omitted.)

Artesian of Pioneer … announced it is ready to begin operating a new water treatment system near Novi, Michigan.

The announcement was made Monday in an email invitation to visit the plant from AOP founder and president Ed Kidston to more than a dozen local officials and The Bryan Times.

In his email, Kidston said the new ground water system consists of six wells on less than two acres of ground, providing 12 million gallons of water per day.

Kidston said AOP designed and built the system, and “it has all been approved by Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality in accordance with U.S. EPA guidelines and 10 States Standards.”

A call and email Monday to officials with the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality, seeking an exact location and additional information about the project, was not returned by the end of the day.

In a phone call Monday, Kidston declined to identify the exact location, citing security concerns, but did say the plant would begin operations March 12.  But according to a pair of Sept. 2017 stories by LeAnn Rogers, of the Novi Observer and Eccentric newspaper, Township officials on Sept. 11, 2017, inked a deal with Kidston to build a water system.

“The township board voted at a special meeting Sept. 11 to approve a $16.5 million contract with Ohio-based Artesian of Pioneer for construction of two water treatment plants and two 1 million-gallon storage tanks.  The treatment plants would remove iron and manganese from the water.  Initially, work will move ahead on the one treatment plant and one of the storage towers,” the Sept. 13, 2017, story reported.

Kidston called the Michigan water plant “almost identical” to the plant he is proposing northwest of Fayette, in Fulton County.  AOP currently has an agreement to drill test well(s) roughly within the boundaries of the Michindoh Aquifer and sell the water to as many as nine entities in Henry, Fulton and Lucas counties.

The test well is in the 24000 block of Fulton County Road S.  (several paragraphs omitted)  

In his email, Kidston said, “Anyone who would like to tour our new facility and actually educate themselves on water supply instead of foolish fearmongering to promote a private agenda is welcome.”

He said “for security reasons” those who wish to attend will have to register via email.

Kidston, who’s also mayor of Pioneer, has said he has owned AOP for 40 years and has brought many water systems online over the past 20 years, including ones in progress in southeastern Ohio and in Illinois.

He expressed frustration with the amount of “misinformation and outright lies” from those who oppose the project.

He also maintained that drilling and withdrawing up to 14 million gallons a day from the test site would not affect Williams County.

“I know (water) business.  I’ve been doing it for 40 years.  I know what I’m doing.  No one outside a two-mile radius, a one-mile radius, will be affected.  It will not affect Williams County.  If it does, it won’t be approved,” Kidston said Monday.

He also took issue with the labeling of the Michindoh Aquifer, saying it was a creation of the Bryan Board of Public Affairs when the city sought sole source designation for the aquifer in 2012.  He said it was a “false” and made-up designation, and instead said the area is covered by “dozens of aquifers.”  He has identified the Brawley Aquifer as the one underneath the test well site.

Kidston said test results will eventually be available proving the feasibility of the proposed Fulton County project, and that it will not negatively affect the Williams County water supply.

He said those results are not available yet because the project is not far enough along.  But he said he’s confident based on his experience and what his team, which includes Indiana-based professional geologist Todd Feenstra, is saying that the project will not hurt the Williams County water supply.

“No expert will testify that there are any issues with the water supply  — not a single intelligent person will say that pumping those wells will in any way affect the water supply in Williams County,” Kidston said.

The 10 State Standards are a set of mutually agreeable water and wastewater guidelines and regulations among 10 states — Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — as well as the Canadian province of Ontario, to establish, as far as practicable, uniformity of practice among the participating states and province.

Bryan Times March 9, 2019

Ohio EPA readies for meeting about AOP aquifer plan

Report by Ron Osburn

Fulton County residents Laura and Les Schaffner live about a mile or two north of Artesian of Pioneer’s test water well site at 24668 County Road S, northwest of Fayette.

Laura Schaffner said since learning about AOP’s controversial plan to withdraw as many as 14 million gallons of water a day from the Michindoh Aquifer, and ship it to as many as nine entities in Fulton, Wood and Henry counties, she has “a lost of questions and (concerns).”

“It’s not far from where we live.  I can’t help but wonder if this will impact our water, or how will it impact our water supply.  So I’m trying to learn all I can about it,” Schaffner told The Bryan Times this past week.

To learn more, Schaffner said she’ll be attending a public informational meeting about the AOP well site application organized by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Fayette Local Schools, 400 E. Gamble Road.

The Ohio EPA has given AOP preliminary approval for the proposed well site, following a Dec. 21, 2018, site visit by staff from the EPA; the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources; AOP president Ed Kidston; Todd Feenstra, president and owner of Tritium, Inc., an Elkhart, Indiana-based Environmental Services company; and Tom Borck, vice president of Poggemeyer Design Group, in Toledo.

But given the “high level of interest” in AOP’s proposed plan, the EPA has set up this informational meeting, said EPA spokesperson Dina Pierce, referring to the overwhelming public opposition to the plan over the past nine months by residents in Williams County and in many of the other eight counties in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana above the Michindoh.

The aquifer already provides an estimated 75 million gallons a day to about 385,000 residents.

Pierce said Tuesday’s meeting will kick off with a brief PowerPoint presentation in which the EPA will review the process, step by step, and explain what is necessary to establish a public water system.

“in this instance, that includes explaining the rules and technical requirements for (underground) water sources and explaining what is necessary to site a production well for a public water system,” said Pierce, who noted that approving a well site is “a very, very early step in a very long process.”

She said EPA staff also will review what the next steps are in the process if this well site is approved.

After the PowerPoint presentation, EPA staff will be available to answer questions from the audience and accept written questions, Pierce said.

Letters about the draft permit also are being accepted by the Ohio EPA’s Division of Drinking and Ground Waters until 5 pm March 15.  Letters should be sent to the attention of Craig Smith at P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, OH  43216-1049.

Sherry Fleming, of the Williams County Alliance, a grassroots group opposed to the project, said she expects a large turnout Tuesday night.  In addition, the group plans a protest outside the school at 5:30 pm, prior to the beginning of the meeting.

“I think people are very frustrated.  They feel like our backs are against the wall and there’s not a lot we can do (to fight this), Fleming said Thursday.  She added the Alliance is actively working on other ways to oppose the AOP plan that will be unveiled beginning later this month.

Opponents of the AOP plan will be traveling from Indiana to attend the protest and the meeting.  Susan Catterall, of the Hamilton Lake area in Steuben County, Indiana, said Friday.  Opponents from southern Michigan also will attend, according to organizer Rachel Yoder, of Hillsdale County.

THE PROCESS

The Ohio legislature is currently in session and working on the biennial budget, but State Rep. Jim Hoops (R-D81), who represents Williams County, said he hopes to get away from a committee hearing in time to attend the meeting.

“I’m pleased with the EPA’s attention and response to this issue and that they’re making themselves available to take questions.  I do think at the state level they’re very aware of the thoughts of Williams County residents concerning this aquifer,” Hoops said Thursday.

Bryan Mayor Carrie Schlade said she and other city and local officials plan to attend.

“I think we’re hoping to get some information we don’t have.  But I have pretty low expectations,” Schlade said Thursday.  “Realistically, the EPA is using this forum to explain the process, so I hope the public remains calm and understands this is not a decision, this is just one step in a long process.”

State Sen. Rob McColley (R-D1), said he will be unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting due to legislative budget committee meetings.  His district includes Williams County and a small slice of western Fulton County outside the proposed well site.

But, McColley said, “Representative Hoops and I are actively communicating with the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency about the kind of things that could be discussed that would better facilitate informed decisions regarding these types of water sources,” McColley said Thursday.

Kidston also said Thursday he “probably will not go personally,” noting that in his nearly 40-year career in the commercial water business, “I’ve attended more than my share of EPA meetings.”

He said at least one person will attend as his representative(s).

This is really a non-event for AOP.  (It’s) just part of the lengthy process,” said Kidston, also mayor of Pioneer.  “Most likely EPA will be very direct and matter of fact (and) I hope anyone who is truly worried about their water will be put at ease.

“As for the other motives and agendas, it will be very uncommon for OEPA to address these wild claims nor or ever and so I’m sure some will leave disappointed,” Kidston told The Bryan Times.

Bryan Times March 9, 2019

Water transmission cost study advances

Report by Jen Lazenby

Work on studying the Michindoh Aquifer as a potential water source for seven communities is continuing with work underway to calculate transmission costs for those communities.

The Henry County Regional Water and Sewer Board of Trustees Wednesday authorized Poggemeyer Design Group to begin work on calculating transmission costs from the proposed well site near Fayette to seven communities which are considering the location for a new regional ground water plant.  In October, the water and sewer board approved an agreement with Artesian of Pioneer (AOP) to drill and test wells for the district, villages of Liberty Center and Whitehouse, cities of Maumee, Sylvania and Perrysburg and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District, based in Bowling Green.

Rex Huffman, legal counsel for the district, requested the approval so he could contact Tom Borck of Poggemeyer to start working on the report while continuing discussions on options for the next step of the project.

“I think that’s a critical piece of information that we’re going to need,” Huffman said.  “I feel like we’ve lost another month just sitting here waiting for him to get started.

“Drilling that production well is a significant expense and a significant commitment,” he continued.  “I think before we go there we need to have this other information.:”

Board member Brian Baker agreed the transmission figures are important.

“We’ve needed that number for two years,” Baker said.  “That’s one of the most important numbers we need.”

Board member Amy Behman noted that figure alone could determine whether they can move forward with the project.  

“It’s a key in the total cost,” she said.  “If that’s going to be so high, it may not matter what the cost of the water is.”

The transmission cost report will cost $40,000, and that amount was calculated into the original contribution each entity made at the beginning of the project.  It’s estimated the report will take one month to complete.

At a previous meeting Huffman summarized several options the group is considering for the next phase, including drilling a production well and different amounts of modeling to look at the long-term impacts a plant could have on the aquifer and surrounding properties.

At its Feb. 13 meeting, the water and sewer district board approved up to $3,000 to be put toward additional work.  According to minutes from its Feb. 19 meeting, Sylvania City Council approved up to $12,500 in additional funds toward the project.  Maumee City Council has approved up to $30,000 to move into the next phase of the project, according to minutes from its Feb. 18 meeting.  Henry county Planning Director Nick Rettigsaid both Liberty Center and Whitehouse have indicated they want to continue with the project at this point.

Huffman is also the legal counsel for the Northwestern Water and Sewer District and he said that entity has indicated it did not want to commit additional funds until the transmission costs are known.

(repetitive information in concluding two paragraphs omitted)

Bryan Times, March 30

New water plant opened for tour;

Michigan plant similar to that planned for local aquifer

Report by Ron Osburn

(several paragraphs about Lyon Charter Township plant omitted)

The new Lyon Township plant is also noteworthy for another reason.  “It’s almost identical,” Kidston said, to the plant he is hoping to build near Fayette that could supply millions of gallons of Michindoh Aquifer water to as many as nine entities east of Williams County.

The AOP plan has drawn criticism and opposition since last summer when Kidston told The Bryan Times he had been meeting with representatives of Maumee, Sylvania, Perrysburg, Liberty Center, Whitehouse, Henry County’s water and sewer district, Fulton County and the Northwestern Water & Sewer District to discuss the possibility of having AOP tap into the Michindoh to supply their residents with drinking water.

He said talks with Henry County Water & Sewer District began about three years ago because of a dispute the district was having with Napoleon about water.  Talks began with the Toledo suburbs last year when the suburbs began having issues with the city of Toledo, their water supplier.

Residents in Williams County have staged protests against the plan, and those protests have spread to include opponents in some of the other counties within the nine-county, three-state boundary of the Michindoh.

Thursday, during a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation prior to the tour, Kidston said a new water plant system similar to the Lyon Township system “happens all the time in the U.S.”  He said the two Michigan well fields have been proven not to interfere with any other nearby water systems by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and that “no other water supply will be affected today, tomorrow, ever.”

But he said a “team,” including Bryan city government, The Bryan Times, the Williams County Alliance and “employees and members of all of the above on social media, have “joined together to tell lies and scare the public about AOP’s plans for a local water system.”

“Without those lies, there’s no story,” he said.

Kidston took issue with three “lies” in particular.  For one, he showed a list of the 18 entities that have formally passed resolutions opposing the AOP plan, contrasted with a list of about 300 communities and municipalities within the Michindoh boundary that have not.  He noted that while 743,000 people live in the nine-county area bounded by the Michindoh, a mere 800 — .108 percent — attended the March 12 Ohio Environmental Protection Agency information meeting on his proposed Fayette production well siting.

“After all of this hype, all of these scare tactics, 800 people attended after being told by this “team” that life as you know it is ending,”  Kidston’s presentation noted.  He also questioned the crowd count as a Bryan Times “exaggeration,” putting the number at 500.  The Times received its estimate on the night of the meeting from a Fayette school principal.

He also noted that of 484 elected politicians in the nine-county area, not one has introduced legislation or done anything to oppose his plan.

“Why?  They know this is fluff — just pure fluff,” Kidston said.

He also disputed what he said is the general opinion that the Michindoh Aquifer is a single body of water, and “when it’s gone, it’s gone.”  He said the aquifer is actually a series of aquifers that continually recharge, and the Michindoh is a misconception that he said was promoted by Bryan city government and the Board of Public Affairs through their to-date unsuccessful effort to designate the Michindoh as a sole source aquifer.  Kidston referred to the Michindoh as a “cute name, but there’s no science behind it.

“Bryan thought they could muscle all of (the other communities),” during the sole source designation effort, he said, noting that an outline of the Michindoh boundaries deliberately excluded the communities of Fort Wayne and Angola in Indiana, and Adrian and Hillsdale in Michigan, because those communities did not support the sole source effort.

“If they got any traction with the EPA, the city of Bryan knew those towns would sue them… it has nothing to do with water.  It’s politics.” he said.

Kidston, who turns 60 in two weeks, said there is no legal basis for the city of Bryan to seek to control the water supplies of anyone outside the Bryan municipal border.

Kidston also issued a challenge, asking for any example in which a water system he has developed has caused other water supplies within an 18-mile radius — the distance between Bryan and Fayette — to dry up.

“If I was evil, like they say I am, I would have screwed others over by now.  So go find it.  You won’t find it because it’s a myth … That’s why your representatives have not introduced legislation,” Kidston said, adding that what upsets him most is “my reputation is being tarnished over the lies and innuendo.

“I’ve been at this 40 years and we have not run anyone else out of water.  Why would we do it now?  It’s an absolute lie.  It’s a false argument.”

Kidston has maintained he is “99 percent sure” the Michindoh Aquifer will support his proposal, which he’s said could total up to 14 million gallons per day, depending on how many customers ultimately join the water system.

Asked how he knows that, Kidston said he’s relying on his 40 years of experience in the water business, but acknowledged that scientific data from geology reports does not exist right now to prove or disprove his supposition.

Kidston said the proposed Fayette project is very, very early in the process and that unbiased scientific data on the amount of water, recharge rates and overall feasibility of the project would become available at a later date.

The Ohio EPA is now in the process of considering siting approval for AOP’s single production well on County Road S in Gorham Township, Fulton County, just northwest of Fayette.

“When it’s developed  enough that we can have (data), we’ll have a report,” he said.

Kidston also maintained that if the Fayette project proves unworkable, he will withdraw.  But he said aquifer water is better quality and he could offer it to the prospective customers more cheaply and at better quality than they could get if they were to treat surface water from the Maumee River or Lake Erie.

“This is so ridiculous…a 14 million gallon a day water system happens every day in the U.S.,” he said.

Asked what protections there are if another potential water developer comes along after his project is approved, he said the Ohio EPA would not approve another project if it had concerns that it would harm the aquifer.

He called water “the most regulated business in the world.  You’re not going to slide by, or scoot under the rules.  That’s not going to happen,” he said, adding that projects such as Fayette or Lyon Township often take up to, or more than five years from start to completion.

Kidston estimated the Lyon Township project cost at about $20 million, which he said represented a $60 million savings to the township, which before AOP became involved, was considering an $80 million contract with Great Lakes Water Authority.

When asked about the recent effort by the Williams County Alliance to collect signatures for a proposed county charter initiative, as a way to oppose his project, Kidston dismissed it, saying changes to Williams County government would have no effect on his project in Fayette, in Fulton County.

It means nothing.  And if Williams County people go for it, they’re fools,” he said.

Along with The Bryan Times, those attending the tour included Williams County Commissioner Terry Rummel, Fort Wayne television reporter Cody Butler and freelance journalist Jim Pruitt.