State officials conceded last night that rural parts of Lucas and Fulton counties are experiencing some of the worst water shortages in Ohio, though they aren't yet in a position to say how much of the problem can be attributed to a local quarry.
But Scott Kell, of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, vowed to hold Seaway Sand & Stone responsible if his agency's investigation, which is to be released in about six weeks, reveals evidence of the company's quarry operation along Airport Highway affecting private water wells.
The quarry is in Swanton Township, near Toledo Express Airport.
Mr. Kell is deputy chief of technical services for the state natural resources department's mineral resources management program, which regulates mining operations in the state, including the quarry.
He made his comments inside a crowded room at Springfield Township hall, where nearly 125 residents of Lucas and Fulton counties had gathered to talk about the quarry with two dozen public officials who came from as far away as Monroe and Columbus.
The meeting was organized by state Rep. Lynn Olman (R., Maumee) in response to the citizens' concerns.
Monroe officials were invited so that local residents could hear them make a formal presentation about a $450,000 study that county officials had done in the early 1990s to examine the impact of six quarries in that county. A similar study could be done for Lucas and Fulton counties, Mr. Olman said.
Sixty-eight written complaints of dry or diminishing wells have been filed this year with the Ohio natural resources department by property owners in Lucas and Fulton counties - far more than any other part of the state, Mr. Kell said. “We recognize that there is a serious problem here,” he said.
Wayne Jones, of ODNR's division of water, agreed, noting that one Lucas County well that has been monitored continuously for about four decades has shown a 12-foot drop in water the past three years - even though there is nothing being pumped out.
Mr. Kell and Mr. Jones said there could be reasons other than a quarry, given the region's sprawling development, its golf courses, and the heavy amount of groundwater that's drawn off by farms. “We're seeing some sort of decline here, and it's not necessarily due to one quarry,” Mr. Jones said.
In fact, the only conclusive evidence is that Seaway's operation apparently has had little effect on one of the aquifers in the historic Oak Openings region - but, as Mr. Kell pointed out, that's only one of several aquifers in the region.
Although ODNR regulates quarries, it is not empowered to limit a quarry's draw-down. It can, however, require a company to compensate affected property owners, according to Mike Sponsler, chief of ODNR's mineral resources management program.