January 21, 2010

Aquifer protection draws public comment

A proposal from the city of Bryan, Ohio, to have the regional aquifer protected by the US Environmental Protection Agency drew a  crowd of more than eighty people to the Hudson Area High School Cafeteria last Tuesday night to get some answers about the proposal.

Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 representatives Mony Chabria and William Spaulding were on hand to answer questions and hear feedback from area residents about bringing the Michindoh aquifer under EPA protection.

The aquifer is located between 75 and 250 feet underground across nine counties in the region, including parts of Allen, DeKalb and Steuben counties in Indiana; Branch, Hillsdale and Lenawee counties in Michigan; and Defiance and Fulton counties, and all of Williams County in Ohio. The public comment period on the proposed decision ends Jan. 29.

Steve Casebere, director of utilities for the city of Bryan, Ohio, filed the petition last year to have the aquifer recognized by the EPA as a sole-source water supply. When an aquifer is designated the sole source of water for an area (SSA), the EPA must review all federally funded projects in the area to determine potential for contaminating the aquifer. No federal funds may be spent on projects, such as roads, that the EPA  determines may contaminate the aquifer.

One of the concerns raised by several at the meeting was that if the proposal was adopted it would cause the need for additional work for many projects in the area.

Hudson resident Jerry Godfrey was among those commenti9ng. He said  that though he appreciates what the EPA has done to improve drinking water safety, he is opposed to more regulation. “In my opinion, the EPA always overdoes things,” he said. “They did a good job making water safer in the past 30 years, but they’ll never be happy. They always keep going with dictating rules and regulations.”

Blaine Baker of Clayton also said he questions the feasibility of bringing the aquifer under federal regulation. “With existing rules in place, aren’t we regulated already?” Baker asked. “Is this another level of bureaucracy?”

“Some people think that the less federal government involvement there is, the better off we are,” one respondant said as the crowd responded with applause.

Other questions at the meeting concerned if and how much the aquifer would be protected from things like agricultural runoff from Confined Animal Feeding Operations, that are not federally funded. No clear response was given.

A copy of the Michindoh Sole Source Aquifer Petition is available for review at EPA’s regional office in Chicago, 77 W. Jackson Blvd.; online at www.epa.gov/region5/water/gwdw/index.htm; and at the Lenawee County Library, 4459 W. U.S. 223 in Adrian.

A fact sheet and other documents are also available on the EPA Web site. Comments or questions about the decision can be sent to William Spaulding, WG-15J, U.S. EPA Region 5, 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604 or e-mailed to Spaulding. William@epa.gov.