“How do we value our water in Morrow County?”
That was the question that Morrow County Commissioners were asked to consider at their Feb. 10 meeting with Chester Twp. residents Roger Norcross and Patrick Bracken.
The two men presented questions and suggestions concerning the two state permit requests for dewatering at National Stone and Gravel Co. quarry in Chesterville.
If the permits from the ODNR and Ohio EPA were approved, the company would begin ‘dewatering’ or the removing deeply buried ground water, which would allow it to extract more gravel from its site.
Norcross listed several concerns beginning with how potential dewatering would affect the quality of water, both for drinking and for the Kokosing River.
Should the permit be approved, the Kokosing would house the four million or more gallons of excess water per day being pumped out of the ground over a period of 40 years.
Additionally, if the permits were approved, the dewatering operation could affect as many as 100 or more wells, as well as wetlands area located along SR 314.
Another concern Chester residents have is that Stone and Gravel would require a baseline for wells, in order to show they were impacted by dewatering.
Norcross also stated Chester Twp. citizens had considered a “common sense approach” with the quarry request for dewatering permits. They would like to see approval of a phase-by-phase plan where an examination of well baselines would be done at the end of the first 10 year phase.
However, residents’ first choice would be to ask ODNR and OHIO EPA to refuse the permits, but if that were not accepted, to look for a way to make the best of the situation.
Bracken said he found a Supreme Court ruling from 1994 that might apply to their situation. He wondered if ODNR and the EPA would be acting legally by approving the dewatering permits in light of that ruling.
He was also concerned whether the state government agencies are doing all they can to protect the water and environment resources.
After listening to Norcross and Bracken, Commissioner, Dick Miller remarked that this issue of dewatering is putting in the balance whether the water for the citizens and the “Green Valley” is more valuable than the gravel that would come out of the quarry.
Miller responded that the first priority of the township citizens should be to “extend the comment period for the permits.” He encouraged them to buy time to gather their information and form a plan as they go forward.
Next, Miller suggested that it is important to get everyone in one room who has authority and interest in the permits. That is ODNR, Ohio EPA, Township trustees and citizens. Miller added that they should ask Soil and Water Conservation for support documents. The County Health Dept. also would have the logs of most existing wells in the area.
Commissioner Dennis Leader suggested the citizens group get an attorney. Since the National Stone and Gravel Co. readily admitted that it would be likely that people would have problems with wells should the dewatering begin.
Commissioner Tom Whiston said that the Commissioners can make a call the Director of ODNR about a meeting and ask how to best address their questions.
“We can make calls and get information and give you support,” said Whiston. “Water is our most precious resource and we will support your work.”
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