I-Team Investigation: The Consequence of Clean Water

BENTON TOWNSHIP (13abc Action News) - Clean drinking water is once again a concern in our area. Now home owners with wells are worried about a new project that could add contaminants to their water leaving them scrambling.

The 13abc I-Team digging into the proposed project moving one waste product into an abandoned quarry.

That quarry located in Benton Township. It used to be owned by Stoneco and is located off State Route 590 just south of Route 2.

It’s an idea never put into action in Ohio. That's one reason residents want it studied further because they're worried if the water supply is compromised, there's no going back.

The quarry is over 100 years old. There are 38 acres partially water covered with a proposal to fill it with lime. Spent lime to be more exact. It’s lime used at Toledo’s Collins Park water treatment plant. Lime softens water and eliminates odor.

“They think it's going to be fine. We're concerned. We don't think it is going to be fine," said Rich Loth who lives near the quarry.
Loth’s concern is bringing this material with potentially harmful contaminates into an aquifer where people uses wells.

"To take material from a clay lined pit and just dump into our porous rock quarry that filters the water for our drinking system and for the wetlands and for Lake Erie to put that material into an unlined, porous rock pit doesn't make any sense at all,” said Loth.

"We do find ourselves with some opposition here locally but i think it's largely due to just not understanding what the process really is," said John Taddonio, Vice President of Business Development for Rocky Ridge Development. Rocky Ridge owns the quarry.

Taddonio says their testing and third party testing show the project will not affect groundwater.
Across the country, most spent lime ends up in lined landfills. In this case engineers will blend one part lime with 2 parts soil with no liner. Taddonio says that material mixed with clay will create a liner, keeping potential contaminants out.

"It's been tested with the exact same material, the exact same lime and the soil from this site. So whether you do it here in the pit or you do it where I'm standing of you do it 20 miles from here you get the same result," said Taddonio.

Some quarry neighbors aren't so confident.

"To take that material from a lab environment and start to put it into a quarry out here that's a very eco-sensitive area out here is taking a pretty big leap of faith," said Loth.

“You're sort of returning it back to where it originated," said Daryl Dwyer, an associate environmental sciences professor at the University of Toledo.

Dwyer’s lab studies spent lime and has looked through this one of a kind quarry project.

"You can't really find a lot of places where we know the impact. It's not been studied. Although this is an option I think we have to go with the regulations that actually would be applied for putting it on a farm field," said Dwyer.

We already encounter spent lime. It's used on some farm fields, to help crops grow.

"To bring this back to its natural form and restore the habitat, I think it’s a desirable project," said Taddonio.

But what's the cost?

"Once our aquifer is compromised you don't get it back. It's gone," said Loth.

Rocky Ridge does have a permit to land apply the lime but the Ohio EPA has not yet approved the permit to place it near bedrock. According to an EPA spokeswoman, "The agency will make a sound, science-based decision that is protective of the environment and human health and will continue to be transparent about any decisions."

“Nobody in Flint Michigan intended to create the problem that they did. They were on a budget. They were trying to save a few dollars and it didn't work out," said Loth.

It's not a lead issue but neighbors like loth don't want any potential contamination near their water. Quarry operators say don't believe the hype.

“I hope they would set aside maybe their biases and look at the science then don't believe me please believe the science," said Taddonio.

There are some legal issues here as well. Ottawa county prosecutors have filed two criminal misdemeanor zoning violations against the quarry owners. Those complaints are alleging Rocky Ridge is doing industrial and manufacturing operations on what is currently zoned agricultural land.

The next hearing in this case will be February 27th.

The I-Team will stay on top of that hearing and this whole case and keep you updated as the EPA works through the approval process.

Some new and tighter rules have been put into place for the land application of the spent lime.

A letter dated February 14th lays out conditions for placement, groundwater monitoring and drying out the material. It also lays out the allowed concentrations of materials taken out of the drinking water that will be allowed in the quarry.



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