Northwestern Water and Sewer District

Toledo Blade, Dec. 19, 2018, (report by Tom Henry, Early tests on Michindoh Aquifer reveal ‘robust’ supply)  Highly preliminary results from four observation wells drilled into rural parts of northwest Fulton County this fall give credence to one thing people have suspected for years: There’s a lot of water in the Michindoh Aquifer.

Or, at least near Fayette, Ohio.

Tom Borck, vice president of the Bowling Green-based Poggemeyer Design Group, told about 100 people Tuesday night the four wells, drilled north and south of Fayette, yielded no data for making long-term decisions.  But it showed there is a “robust” supply of water in that part of the Michindoh Aquifer, a vast, nine-county pool of groundwater that gets its name by virtue of the fact it traverses parts of Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.

“There’s plenty of water, but we don’t know for who,” Mr. Borck told The Blade immediately after the event, which was the Northwestern Water & Sewer District’s first regional water update since February.  It was held inside the Holiday Inn French Quarter in Perrysburg.

During his presentation, Mr. Borck said the four observation wells were set up to observe an existing irrigation well as 1,400 gallons a minute were pumped out — about 2 million gallons a day.  That’s about two-thirds of the roughly 3 million gallons the city of Maumee uses during a typical day, or half of the 4 million gallons a day Perrysburg normally uses.

But Mr. Borck — while pleased there were no obvious impacts or complications — cautioned heavily against considering the information more than an anecdotal first step.

He said there’s no way of knowing yet how sustainable a massive drawdown could be from that aquifer should the cities of Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, and others west of Toledo get seriously interested — and if there would still be enough for residents in the nine counties that currently rely on the aquifer as their sole source of water.  The most highly dependent of those is Williams County.  Its largest city and county seat, Bryan, doesn’t come close to the population of the Toledo-area’s three biggest suburbs.

A question was raised at the meeting about how the U.S. Geological Survey has said at least 10 years of data are needed to fully characterize an aquifer.

Poggemeyer’s work, which as cost about $100,000 to date, is being done for several Toledo-area municipalities as well as the water and sewer district, which represent5s about 6,500 water customers in smaller jurisdictions.

“It’d be nice to have 10 years of data, but that’s not practical,” Mr. Borck said.  He later told The Blade the preliminary plans are to drill another three to five observation wells and collect data for another six months to a year, although he was later corrected by a colleague who said any such decisions would be left to the firm’s hydrologists.

Several other groups are doing similar studies, including Artesian of Pioneer owner Ed Kidston, who is also the village of Pioneer’s mayor and the businessman who has proposed selling aquifer water to Toledo-area suburbs and other communities east of Williams County.  He did not attend the meeting, and only recently submitted a proposal for a well to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.  The agency said that document is under review.

At a recent Pioneer Village Council meeting, Mayor Kidston stunned observers by suggesting maybe there isn’t even an aquifer beneath the three states and it’s a collection of large private wells.  Many who attended accused him of trying to cloud the issue and divert attention away from the controversy.

The water and sewer district’s update on Tuesday night also featured presentations by its attorney, Rex Huffman and Ted Bennett, Jones & Henry Engineers, Ltd., infrastructure director.

Mr. Huffman gave an overview of the stalled Toledo Area Water Authority talks over the past year, and how that morphed into a unified contract before the Toledo City Council to help it maintain existing customers — including Maumee, Perrysburg, and Sylvania — without compromising too much.

“Right now, I’m very enthused by Toledo’s cooperativeness,” Mr. Huffman said.

Mr. Bennett spoke of an option being floated by the city of Bowling Green to court Maumee, Perrysburg, and others.  Bowling Green began service to the village of Waterville in 2017.

In each case, speakers said, the situation is fluid and more research needs to be done before communities can get a clear direction of which option they prefer.

“Really, what it boils down to is evaluating all of the options that are on the table,” Mr. Borck said.  “This isn’t something we want to do and find out five years later it isn’t going to work.  These are 40- and 50-year decisions.”

Bryan Times, Dec. 20, 2018 (report by Lucas Bechtol, Potential customers get briefing; Water users to the east get update on Michindoh) While initial reports are promising that the Michindoh Aquifer can provide water to communities outside of the aquifer area, it is not the only water source being considered.

The Northwestern Water and Sewer District held a public meeting Tuesday evening in Perrysburg to discuss three options the district is considering for the residents for whom the district provides water. Those options include getting water from Toledo, Bowling Green or the Michindoh.

The district currently provides water and sewer services to 6,500 residents in 19 townships in Wood County, part of Scott Township in Sandusky County and 12 municipalities. It also operates water or sewer systems in several additional non-member municipalities on a contract basis. Its water comes from Toledo.

“Our current water contract with the City of Toledo will expire in the year 2024,” Theresa Pollick, public information officer for the district, said at the meeting. “This will impact our customers in northern Wood County.”

Because the contract is expiring, she said the district is doing its due diligence in finding the best source of water for its customers.

“We are currently just a piece of this region’s water discussion,” Pollick said. “We have been working with our regional partners in Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, southeastern Munroe County in Michigan, Fulton County and the Village of Whitehouse. We are also partnering with Williams Center and Henry County.”

(Reader Alert:  I think ‘Williams Center’ should be ‘Liberty Center’)

Michindoh Aquifer
Tom Borck, vice president at Poggemeyer Design Group, spoke to a group of around 50 people about a plan by Artesian of Pioneer to provide the district water from the Michindoh Aquifer.

Using groundwater for this area of the state is an “out-of-the-box” idea, he said, because of the distance between the source and customers and the fact it hasn’t been done previously in the area.

Yet, they decided to consider this option because of water issues Toledo has had in the past.

“We’ve already heard there was a do-not-drink order in the City of Toledo and all surrounding communities four years ago,” he said. “Part of the equation, as well, is the increasing regulations from Ohio EPA on surface water treatment plants.”

These plants have more oversight and regulation that lead people to think about alternatives to surface water, Borck added.

“Really, what it comes down to is evaluating all the options that’s on the table,” he said. “Our involvement has been to determine the feasibility for groundwater. Not just that it’s somebody’s idea, but is it scientifically possible, is it feasible, is it economical to pursue groundwater for this entire group.”

Borck said Tuesday the plan is to provide around 5 million to 15 million gallons of water a day to outside entities, with 5 million being the lowest amount necessary for economic viability.

“This isn’t something we want to do and find out five years later it isn’t going to work,” he said. “So, there’s obviously a lot of scientific information that is being gathered, being collected and being reviewed.”

To that end, there are two hydrogeologists working with the district to make sure the data is good.

The plan has met some resistance — members of which were present with their protest signs in the back of the room — from people who are concerned the plan could drain the aquifer, which serves as the sole source of water for around 400,000 of people in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.

Currently, Borck said, they are still evaluating whether or not groundwater is a sufficient source to meet the needs of the region.

“Right now there have been four wells drilled out in the general area of Fulton County. Those wells have been drilled into the aquifers to determine what we can get from those aquifers,” he said, adding there is an upper and lower aquifer. “Most of the communities and the residential houses in the area are in the upper aquifer. The village of Fayette, however, is in the lower aquifer.”

A pumping test was performed utilizing an irrigation system roughly in the middle of the observation wells.

“We pumped this well 1,400 gallons a minute for 72 hours,” Borck said. “That 72 hours period showed very little impact on the existing aquifer. It does show this groundwater source appears to be very robust. There is a large amount of water there. The water did not recede and when it did recede it recharged very quickly. Those are good signs to consider the next step.”

That is as far as they’ve gone, he added.

Some funding has been provided for the next steps, Borck said.

“This group needs to decide what the next steps are going to be and whether we do additional drilling of observation wells, whether we do groundwater modeling,” he said. “Once we’ve determined that there is enough water that is viable and sustainable, then we’ll look at waterline costs with who is available or who is interested.”

Questions and Answers
During a question-and-answer section of the meeting, Borck addressed several concerns, including a concern that the U.S. Geological Survey stated a 10-year study costing hundreds of thousands of dollars was needed to understand the aquifer.

So far, the only studies performed have been preliminary testing.

“It would be great to have 10 years of data, but we’re trying to use modeling science with physical, in the ground measuring from these wells and from additional wells to predict future compatibility with the long term goals,” Borck said. “We need additional information before a decision is made to continue down this path.”

He also acknowledged the project would be expensive and everything already done has cost around $100,000.

“This isn’t something we’re entering into lightly or just taking anecdotal evidence or conjecture on what we think might be there,” Borck said. “We’re going to spend the effort to find out. ‘Is this going to work from all scientific indicators or is this something that we should stop at some point?’ We’re going to have to make those decisions as we go forward.”

Moving on to another question, he said there is no indication the whole aquifer would be impacted by this project.

However, there is indication of a localized impact.”

“But, it’s not as significant as we thought it would be when we first started this process,” Borck said. “There is an impact locally, but it doesn’t seem to spread very far throughout the entire aquifer. Those things are being watched.”

The goal, he continued, is determining how, if there is a localized impact, they are able to address it.

They aren’t at that stage, Borck added, as they are still determining whether the water is there and if it would be a viable and financially feasible option.

When asked about the aquifer already being the sole source for 400,000 people, he said most water systems tend to have a single source.

In addition, if this group goes forward with the Michindoh option, he said they would then be part of that sole source, as well — a comment that resulted in some mumblings of disagreement from residents in the back.

“The goal, ” Borck continued, “is not to develop a system that is going to deplete what’s there and then they will have to do something else.”

Going Forward
The Michindoh Aquifer is only one option the Northwestern Water and Sewer District has for its water source.

Another option discussed at the meeting was through the Toledo Regional Water Commission, which has goals to create uniform rates, long-term stability and a regional approach to emergency management of water resources while also exploring regional redundancy.

The third option discussed was to get their water pumped up from the Bowling Green Water Treatment plant.

Copies of the presentation can be found on the district’s website at www.nwwsd.org.

Although the district has around five years until its current contract expires, a decision will need to be made soon.

“If we’re looking at other options, it most likely will have to do with building infrastructure as well as real estate and designing of the project,” Pollick, the district’s public information officer, said. “That takes time. The longer we wait, the harder it becomes to have those options open.”

Ideally, she said, they would like to have the necessary information to make a decision within the next year.

That would provide enough time for a change in the system.

“However, we want to make sure we get the decision right, so this is something we’re considering heavily,” Pollick said.