Proposed water supply in question

County undecided about aquifer

By David J. Coehrs -

A graphic provided by Fulton County shows the span of the Michindoh Aquifer.

A graphic provided by Fulton County shows the span of the Michindoh Aquifer.

Fulton County may consider tapping into the immense Michindoh underground aquifer for its water supply, but not until the supplier provides more comprehensive information about the project.

That was the consensus shared during a session Tuesday of the Fulton County Commissioners. They’re concerned that Artesian of Pioneer Co. (AOP), of Pioneer, Ohio, which has offered to include the county in a prospective regional venture, may not have the ability to deliver.

The commissioners agreed that a plan by AOP to develop a single test well to determine the aquifer’s capacity for the project will not produce results sufficient to accurately gauge the entire operation.

“It’s just one test well. Out of this well they can’t test the whole aquifer,” Commissioner Jon Rupp said. “So I’m a little uncomfortable spending money to find out what we know already. I just don’t think this test is comprehensive enough.”

The Michindoh Aquifer spans portions of Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, and supplies water for parts of nine counties in that area. In 2007, the City of Bryan petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to designate Michindoh a sole source aquifer – an area’s principal source of drinking water. EPA consideration was suspended when the city couldn’t provide requested information.

Other regional communities expressing interest in the AOP group project include Liberty Center, Whitehouse, Henry County, Sylvania, and Maumee. Fulton County was approached after initial plans for a Toledo Area Water Authority fell through.

It’s likely all of the involved communities would be asked to share the study’s cost, a maximum of $35,000. The test well would be reviewed for 72 hours to verify the volume of water it can handle.

“We need more information about what this test is going to give us,” Commissioner Bill Rufenacht said.

He said he questions whether a single test well will give the commissioners information concerning what the Michindoh Aquifer can do as a whole. He also wonders whether the millions of gallons one well draws might negatively impact the volume of water received by other group members.

Fulton County Public Utilities Director Ziad Musallam, who attended the session, said AOP hasn’t presented in the scope of service how individual wells in the area would be affected.

AOP CEO Ed Kidston said, “At this point, Fulton County knows everything the group knows and I know.” He said the next step involves investigating Michindoh.

“We’ll have to drill and test the aquifer,” he said. “That’s the key component: that the water’s there, and that it’s renewable water, and sustainable.”

His company is awaiting approval from the EPA, but hopes to test the aquifer in September. Kidston said although little testing has been performed on the aquifer, “the testing completed gives us great confidence that there’s plenty of water there, much more than this project needs, in fact. But in order to do a project of this magnitude, you have to be absolutely sure.”

He said experts have confirmed to him that the Michindoh Aquifer, which currently draws 25 billion gallons of fresh water per year, is capable of 300 billion gallons annually. “Which gives us comfort that, in the right locations, we’ll be able to find it and serve these communities,” he added.

The Village of Fayette already has wells on the aquifer. Administrator Genna Biddix said the village isn’t yet concerned that more communities tapping into the water supply may cause their water volume to diminish.

“We haven’t taken a stand one way or the other. I can’t give an answer until more research is done,” she said.

Rupp said he’s comfortable with Fulton County’s non-commital status until AOP can provide additional information, including what its next step will be.

“It’s not defined clearly enough for me to vote for it, what we’re getting for our money,” he said. “The project is still unclear. I would like to see more clarity…from what’s going to happen.”

A graphic provided by Fulton County shows the span of the Michindoh Aquifer. graphic provided by Fulton County shows the span of the Michindoh Aquifer.
County undecided about aquifer

By David J. Coehrs

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.