The steady growth of residential housing in a three-county area where the Oak Openings Aquifer is found has prompted local health officials to conduct their first-ever groundwater study of shallow wells in the area.
The study, which will begin today with a day of water-sample collections, will span the next several months and will include tests for 60 substances in 42 shallow wells found in parts of Fulton, Henry, and Lucas counties.
The Oak Openings Aquifer is a shallow sand deposit that extends from south of Pontiac, Mich., southwest into the three involved northwest Ohio counties. According to health officials, the sand aquifer is relatively vulnerable to contamination because of its geologic origin, composition, and proximity to the land surface.
The bulk of the homes in the study area have developed private, relatively shallow wells that have been drilled or driven into the aquifer for water supply.
Hans Schmalzried, who serves as the health commissioner in Fulton and Henry counties, said yesterday that the shallow-well study was designed - with the help of several state and federal agencies - to determine whether development and the use of shallow wells has impacted groundwater.
He said health officials have no indication that there is a health concern for any of the approximately 3,000 to 4,000 homes in the area. But he said officials want to be proactive about the situation.
“We're not looking for a problem,” Mr. Schmalzried said yesterday. “We just want to be proactive and not wait until a problem occurs.”
The area in question includes parts of Sylvania, Swanton, Providence, and Spencer townships in Lucas County; Swan Creek, Pike, Dover, and Chesterfield townships in Fulton County, and Washington Township in Henry County.
For the study, Mr. Schmalzried said officials will take samples from 42 homes that use shallow wells. Those same wells will be tested again in late September, with results of the study expected by January.
Select surface-water sites also will be sampled, he said.
Mr. Schmalzried said the tests will check for the presence of such things as household lawn chemicals, road salts, agricultural chemicals, and septic wastes.
The health commissioner said residents who are participating in the study - at no cost to them - have done so voluntarily and already have been identified. He said the tests for each home cost $1,200.
In addition to the local health departments, one federal agency and five state agencies, including the Ohio Department of Agriculture, are involved in the study.
Mr. Schmalzried said officials will review the findings and determine how to proceed in the future. If the study determines that water quality is being impacted, education will need to be provided for homeowners with shallow wells, the health commissioner said.
Another option would be for the health departments to look at their own policies for approving shallow wells - those under 25 feet - for future homes, he added.