April 10, 2003
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Council, trustees discuss wellhead protection efforts

Septic tanks dominated much of a discussion on the Village’s wellhead protection efforts during a joint meeting of Village Council and the Miami Township trustees on March 31. Council president Tony Arnett solicited advice on how best to inspect the approximately 10 private sewage systems within the wellhead protection area, calling it “low hanging fruit.”
Septic tanks are one of 16 potential pollution sources listed in The Village Wellhead Protection Management Plan, which was written to protect the public water supply. The plan also lists three identified potential pollution sources, the Village water treatment plant, Morris Bean & Company and a Vectren gas line.
The Village in the past has attempted to contact property owners in the wellhead area by letter, Arnett said. However, the Village needs more information about the number and quality of the private wells and underground storage and septic tanks that could affect the five-year time-of-travel zone, or the area within which it takes water five years to travel to the Village’s wellhead. The five-year zone and the one-year zone make up the wellhead protection area, which is located outside of Yellow Springs in parts of Miami, Cedarville and Xenia Townships.
Arnett suggested the Village help property owners pay for water testing and possibly repairing faulty tanks, as an incentive for people in the wellhead area to work with the Village on protecting the public water supply.
“We don’t want to insist but we have an interest in seeing it gets done,” he said. “The threat is probably not significant, but there could be a situation with a property owner deciding to dispose of household chemicals by one of these mechanisms.”
“If we can eliminate it for $700, I’d be willing to do it,” he said.
Trustees president Chris Mucher expressed approval for offering monetary aid to residents in the one-year time-of-travel area to resolve potential septic problems on their properties.
But some at the meeting said that potential contamination sources in the township were insignificant compared to the potential pollution from Yellow Springs. Trustee Lamar Spracklen said he was concerned that runoff pollution from the village could be more harmful than the septic tanks in the wellhead area.
“There’s a lot more contamination from 1,500 homes in the village than in the 10 homes in the five-year area,” he said. Eliminating a problem before it arises is “like shooting in the dark,” he said.
The 2001 wellhead plan presents strategies for dealing with on-site wastewater treatment systems, such as identifying potential problems and educating the public on waste disposal and proper operation of the septic systems.
Council member Joan Horn suggested a wellhead committee could be charged with educating the public. Council member Denise Swinger said that a wellhead committee could be responsible for all the tasks Village Manager Rob Hillard identified in the 2002 annual wellhead report, which includes the inspection process for above and below ground storage tanks and sewage systems, township zoning recommendations, a geology survey, potential expansion of the wellhead protection area and education efforts.
At the mention of committees handling the process, township resident Scott Hammond, who was a member of a wellhead commission that Council disbanded in 2000, said that it would be more effective if township residents could discuss wellhead efforts on a personal basis with Greene County health officials or the national conservation office, with whom the residents work regularly.
“You have to build some trust back in the township,” said Hammond, who is a member of the Miami Township Zoning Commission. “You need to start building some relationship. It shouldn’t be that big a job.”
Township Zoning Commission member Lehr Dircks agreed, urging Council and trustees to “protect the wellfield and respect property owners’ rights.”
Hammond also suggested putting a conservation easement on the wellhead area to “tell the folks you do mean business.”
Council members appeared to be receptive to local residents’ scepticism about forming a new wellhead committee. Horn suggested that the Village check into the outreach services the public departments provide and research how to get an easement on the wellfield. Then she suggested charging the Village Environmental Commission with some of the tasks that still need to be done, such as education.
The education issue could be approached in a practical manner by providing local disposal options for old antifreeze and household toxic waste and pollutants, Spracklen said. Hammond suggested the Village work with Greene County on its annual toxic waste cleanup day.
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• Council and trustees also discussed creating incentives to attract developers to a commerce park on land set aside in the Cooperative Economic Development Agreement. Council intends to give Community Resources money from the Village Economic Revolving Loan Fund to purchase land identified in the CEDA, which Council and the trustees approved last year. Community Resources would then be responsible for finding a developer to build a park. Council and the trustees would work together to establish incentives to attract new and local businesses to the park.
“It seems everybody’s going for tax abatements,” Horn said, asking for other ideas that would “make this a really enticing community.”
The group appeared to agree that looking inwardly and supporting local businesses would be just as good, if not better, than attracting new business from outside the community. Arnett suggested that in order to grow local businesses the community should focus less on building a commerce park than on creating a business incubator for agrobusinesses, artists, musicians and medical practitioners.
“Sometimes businesses don’t need money but they need help . . . to create a network structure with a skill base to help local entrepreneurs get out there,” Arnett said. He said the incentives should perhaps have less to do with relocating a business here and more to do with growing a business.
• The next joint trustees/Council meeting is scheduled for June 30.

—Lauren Heaton