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Published: Thursday, 4/18/2002

Concerns over Dundee firm's drilling idea to be aired at meeting tonight

DUNDEE - State, county, local, and environmental officials are expected to meet tonight with residents to discuss their concerns with a cement company's plan to drill two wells near their current facility.

At issue, is Holcim, Inc.'s proposal to drill two industrial wells approximately 350 feet into the ground near the Dundee Township plant in hopes of providing a reliable backup water supply that could keep the plant running during particularly dry years.

According to documents provided by the county Environmental Health Department, the company has requested permits for two wells that could each pump approximately 400 gallons a minute. The water would be used in the plant's manufacturing process only when sufficient water could not be drawn out of the plant's regular source, Macon Basin, said Tim Schlosser, the plant's environmental and safety manager.

Holcim, which used to be called Holnam, uses approximately 1.5 million gallons of water daily in its manufacturing process.

Of that, approximately 600,000 gallons is released back into the atmosphere as steam. About 400,000 gallons are used daily in the plant's scrubber/oxidizer, which cleans its emissions into the atmosphere, Mr. Schlosser explained.

The company filed its petition with the county in August, but its plans have caused concern among residents in western Monroe County because the water table in the area is already dropping rapidly, a recently completed state study has concluded.

Residents have expressed concerns that as the wells are brought online during dry years, their respective draws will only increase the problem of the falling water table that is causing so many wells to go dry.

“I used to think that roads were the number one issue in Monroe County, but water is right now,” county commission chairman Bill Sisk said.

“We're having this meeting [scheduled for 7 p.m. at Dundee High School] to let people know what's going on. [The county commissioners] don't have jurisdiction, but if you don't have these informational meetings, than people think you're hiding things from them,” Mr. Sisk said.

What the company is seeking is permission to drill the wells and then test at what capacity they can operate before they begin to adversely impact the underground water table.

Mr. Schlosser said the company is well aware that its neighbors are not only interested in the company's plans, but also concerned over their own drinking water supplies.

“There's concern and we understand the concern,” Mr. Schlosser said.

“We're reviewing what our plans are as far as our draw-down tests go and an overview of why we want to do this. But we have to do the draw-down test in order to determine what kind of draw-down you can have before you impact the [water table].”

Mr. Schlosser said he and other Holcim representatives at tonight's meeting will also be prepared to discuss the company's plans to dredge approximately 115,000 cubic yards of sediment from the Macon Basin.

Those dredgings would then be used to cap two old kiln dust settling lakes that are at the bottom of the company's adjacent quarry and would clear enough space to store an additional 22 million gallons of water behind its dam on the Macon Creek.

The reservoir behind the 1959 dam is used as the company's main water supply, and removing the sediment would restore some of the reservoir's previous capacity, Mr. Schlosser said.

The dredgings, which would be used to produce a wetland as a cap on top of the settling lakes are not classified as inert, containing high levels of such things as zinc, and require approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality before they can be moved.

The firm, which employs about 275 people, is awaiting word from the DEQ on its application to dredge the reservoir.



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