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Jeremy Rentz, pro­fessor of envi­ron­mental engi­neering at Trine Uni­versity. Collegian|Josephine Von Dohlen

Some Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana res­i­dents are con­cerned about the under­ground Michindoh Aquifer, which sup­plies drinking water to nine counties, including Hillsdale. They say local com­mu­nities could expe­rience water shortages some town down the road if pre­cau­tions are not made now.

Artesian of Pioneer, a water pro­duction company, seeks to build addi­tional wells that would tap into the aquifer and sell the water to outside counties, including several suburb counties of Toledo, Ohio.

Dozens packed into the Hillsdale County Con­ser­vation Club on Tuesday night to listen to Jeremy Rentz, pro­fessor of envi­ron­mental engi­neering at Trine Uni­versity, speak about the state of the Michindoh Aquifer and how Hillsdale and the other counties about the aquifer could be affected in the future.

“I hope you all realize this aquifer is a spec­tacular resource for us,” Rentz said to the crowd. “Nine counties rely on it exten­sively for their drinking water.”

For lifelong Hillsdale res­ident Ted LoPresto, this meeting was the second pre­sen­tation on the Michindoh aquifer by Rentz that he has attended. LoPresto said he appre­ciates Rentz’s lec­tures because of their edu­ca­tional nature.

“My biggest concern is that Artesian of Pioneer will get per­mission to go ahead with the wells,” LoPresto said.

Artesian of Pioneer is in the process of building new wells that could pull up to 10 million gallons-per-day from the Michindoh aquifer and bring the water to other counties such as Ohio’s Lucas, Fulton, and Henry counties, according to Rentz.

Current esti­mates put daily water usage for the nine Michindoh aquifer counties at 75 million gallons per day. This water sup­plies Michigan’s Hillsdale, Lewanee, and Branch counties; Indiana’s Steuben, DeKalb, and Allen counties; and Ohio’s Williams, Fulton, and Defiance counties.

“I per­sonally think a 10 million gallons-per-day project, on top of everybody else’s 75 million gallons a day, is a pretty big deal,” Rentz said.

Ohio’s Envi­ron­mental Pro­tection Agency did approve a ten­tative date for Artesian of Pioneer’s first pro­duction site, according to the Toledo Blade, but the process is still in the very early stages.

Many expressed concern about whether the aquifer could handle an addi­tional 10 million gallons-per-day. Rentz said that while the aquifer has enough water, the water under­ground travels at an incredibly slow rate, leading to localized issues where wells are built.

“Water moves very slowly under­ground, and that’s why it’s not available across the aquifer instantly,” Rentz said. “You can’t pos­sibly imagine how slow this water is going.”

According to Rentz, the aquifer isn’t nec­es­sarily getting empty, but if spe­cific areas were to draw excessive amounts, problems could arise in those areas.

“Across the aquifer, we can handle 10 million gallons-per-day,” Rentz said. “But the problem here is that they want to pull 10 million gallons-per-day at a very spe­cific location, and not all the water across the aquifer is available instantly.”

So while there is lots of water in the aquifer, Rentz said, all the water in the aquifer is not available for the Artesian of Pioneer project.

But just because there is a lot of water doesn’t mean that pre­cau­tions don’t need to be taken, Rentz said. Aquifers running out of water is not improbable; it has hap­pened across the United States.

“We have drained aquifers across the country, and to think that we can’t drain ours is rather absurd,” Rentz said.

While ground­water can be a renewable resource, Rentz said it must be managed properly.

“We have gotten lucky in the tri-state area for the past 200 years,” he said. “Going forward, if we add more 10 million gallons-per-day wells, that might not be the case.”

While Artesian of Pioneer is in its first stages for an initial project, there isn’t clarity about where one project might lead.

“Concern is not this sin­gular project,” Rentz said. “Our concern is that this is the first project. What does the second project look like, or the third, or the fourth? And once one of these goes in, what is going to stop the second?”

Ward 4 Hillsdale City Coun­cilman Ray Briner attended the meeting and said that he learned that for Hillsdale, there isn’t an imme­diate impact, but rather some­thing that could cause problems down the road.

“What I learned is that it won’t be an imme­diate impact on res­i­dents in Michigan, since they’re looking right now at putting wells in Ohio,” Briner said. “The thing that would affect Michigan res­i­dents would be how close they are to the Ohio border.”

Briner said that the impact could happen 100 or 500 years from now, depending on how many people come and start building wells.

“The aquifer can only service so many people, and we have the perfect number of people right now,” Briner said.
For those inter­ested in more infor­mation, a public infor­mation session will take place on March 12 at 6 p.m. at the Fayette Local School, 400 E. Gamble Rd., Fayette.