People packed into the Zolman Memorial Building in Chester Township on Nov. 9 for an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency hearing on National Lime and Stone’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES).

The location formerly known as Chesterville Sand and Gravel has filed an application to de-water the gravel pit. De-watering the pit would enable them to dig deeper for gravel. If approved, the permit will allow National Lime and Stone to discharge up to 4 million gallons of water per day into the Kokosing River.

The hearing was requested by an unprecedented outpouring of concern from residents and a request by the Chester Township trustees.

Prior to the hearing, there was a question and answer period with the three representatives of the EPA’s Division of Surface Water. Although there were many good questions posed by those in attendance, the EPA officials seemed ill prepared to answer them, questions such as; why the only tests being performed on the discharge were Ph, flow and totals Suspended solids.

“Why are you not testing for possible toxins or pollutants into the Kokosing which is a designated scenic river in Ohio and is the habitat for several endangered species?’ asked one resident. They specifically mentioned that oilfield brine was used on the gravel in the winter to control ice. Suzanne Matz from the EPA, replied that, as far as she knew the “brine” was salt and water mixture not petroleum based. The resident replied, “You are incorrect. They have applied oilfield brine for the past three years.”

Jeff Richwein, retired from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), asked where there were similar operations in other locations as stated on the application.

Another question raised was if, during high water and flooding, the quarry would be required to stop pumping water into the Kokosing.

“I was surprised they (the EPA) were so unprepared,” said Chester Township Trustee Lynn Shinaberry, “there were not many answers.”

The EPA permit is not the final step in the process. If approved, the next step is a permit from ODNR. They (ODNR) have completed a hydrology study which may help answer questions of the affects on local wells, and nearby artisan springs.

Residents wanted to be clear that they are not opposed to National Lime and Stone doing business. They are merely concerned about the effects to the Kokosing and its inhabitants, nearby wildlife and local water supplies.

Susan Grundy, Chesterville resident and organizer of resident meetings to discuss the permit said, “We want the EPA to be proactive and not reactive to a potential problem.”

Reach Donna Carver at 419-946-3010, ext. 1804 or on Twitter @MorrCoSentinel.

By Donna Carver

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