September 25, 2003


YSI settlement marks funds for environmental projects

When the state of Ohio mandated, as part of the environmental contamination settlement with YSI Incorporated in July, that the company spend $95,000 on supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) in the village, five local groups applied for the money. The groups proposed projects that ranged from conducting a village health study to analyzing the local watershed.

Last week four out of the five groups received grants ranging from $7,000 to $60,000 to fund their projects, according to Lisa Abel, YSI’s director of corporate social responsibility.

“It’s kind of neat to be able to spread that amount around to different groups who will be able to work on the environment,” said Abel.

The largest amount, $60,000, went to the local Sourcewater Protection Committee, under the auspices of the Green Environmental Coalition. The money will be used to continue what was previously a voluntary effort from YSI to pay an outside consultant to review and interpret the company’s cleanup plans and groundwater testing.

In the past year and a half, YSI has spent about $15,000 for the services of technical consultant BHE Environmental in Cincinnati, according to Abel. Chris Mucher, who is president of the Miami Township Board of Trustees, said that the Sourcewater Protection Committee will likely continue using BHE because the consulting group is now familiar with the issue and can provide analytical comment.

Mucher said he feels comfortable with the way both YSI and the consulting group have clarified for the committee the project’s technical information and “legalese.”

“Every question this group has put out to YSI or BHE has been answered as fully, as completely and as quickly as possible,” Mucher said. “Even questions that may not have been as pertinent, they went ahead and answered them anyway.”

YSI awarded the balance of the SEP money to applicants based on the merit of their budgeted proposals and the relevance of the project to the community, Abel said. The state’s consent order required that YSI distribute the awards this month and that the projects be completed by July of 2005.

Antioch College professor Ann Filemyr received $18,000 to conduct a public health survey on the kinds of illnesses most prevalent in the village and the behaviors or circumstances that might contribute toward disease here. Survey planners aim to gather data on health patterns and environmental exposures, while trying to avoid conclusions about causes in favor of establishing correlations between specific illnesses and possible factors contributing to them, according to Filemyr.

“I see this as an opportunity to think ahead about what we want to leave as a legacy,” she said. “But it’s only going to work if the community gets involved.”

Filemyr wants local residents and Antioch students to participate actively in creating a workable plan and also in helping collect and compile the data. She sees the survey as an opportunity to bring the campus and the Yellow Springs community closer together.

Information gathering for the survey will begin this fall, she said, so that the project’s findings can be presented to the community around November of next year. Everyone is invited to attend the group’s first meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 30, at 6:30 p.m. in the Yellow Springs Library meeting room.

YSI also awarded $10,000 to local Glen stewards George Bieri and Bob Whyte to help raise awareness about how private property owners in Yellow Springs directly contribute to the quality of surface streams that flow into the Little Miami River.

Bieri, a Glen Helen Ecology Institute property manager and Tecumseh Land Trust leader, said he envisions a one- to two-year mapping and biological study of the stream life in two unnamed creeks that run through the YSI property and through the southern village before emptying into the river. The project is designed to involve community members and especially high school students to reinforce the connection villagers have to the water and their shared responsibility to maintain its purity, according to Bieri.

Toward the end of the project, the leaders plan to hold a public workshop to further educate the community about the contribution villagers can make to water quality and the opportunity they have to become better stewards.

One last project put forth by local residents Richard Zopf, Bill Bebko, and David Case received $7,000 to support a study of the relationship between the Little Miami River and the village wellhead. The team intends to address the quality, quantity and rate of water flowing to and from the wellhead and the river by following sampling procedures designed by hydrogeology experts.

The group also plans to involve volunteers from the community, the high school and the college to simultaneously complete the work and educate the public about the water table. They also plan to share their findings with the public at the end of the project.

The GEC also submitted one last project entitled “Who’s minding the community?” which proposes to document the lessons YSI and the Yellow Springs community had learned from the whole contamination and cleanup process. The project did not receive funding because it did not meet as many of the criteria as the other projects, Abel said.

—Lauren Heaton