COLUMBUS - The Ohio House overwhelmingly approved a bill yesterday that would require state regulators to consider the potential effect of quarries on local water supplies before issuing operating permits.
The Senate is expected to approve changes made by the House and send the measure to Gov. Bob Taft in mid-November.
It is not expected to have much of an effect on quarries that have operating permits. It would, however, affect future permit applications.
State Rep. Lynn Olman (R., Maumee) told his colleagues that the only Ohio Environmental Protection Agency hearing focusing on water is primarily interested in a quarry's potential effect on quality, not quantity.
“We can pull every ounce of water from the subsurface of our ground and there is no provision in the state of Ohio currently for any public hearing or input in that process,” he said. “That boggles my mind.”
The bill, sponsored by Sen. James Carnes (R., St. Clairsville), would require the state to hold hearings and gather data on topography and other factors to determine, in advance of issuing a permit, which property owners could expect their wells to be affected.
If there are problems within that circle, it would be assumed the quarry is at fault and property owners could seek redress. The bill also establishes a procedure for property owners outside that circle to make a case that their water supplies were also affected.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is investigating whether diminishing well water supplies in parts of rural Lucas and Fulton counties can be attributed to water drawn by a Swanton Township quarry operated by Seaway Sand & Stone. Property owners have filed 68 complaints with the state concerning problems with their wells.
The bill is supported by ODNR and the quarry industry. It doubles permitting fees to $500, increases penalties for violators, establishes new blasting standards, and establishes a new permit exclusively for those who quarry within or near a stream.
But it also offers the industry more stability by increasing the life of future operating permits from 10 to 15 years.
“The most important thing for them is predictability and certainty,” said Mr. Olman.