March 9, 2005
Agency seeks study on area groundwater
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Geological Survey is preparing a proposal to study the aquifer under Stark, Tuscarawas and nearby counties because of local worries that the groundwater could become contaminated.
If the study of what is called the Tuscarawas River Basin goes forward, its results, depending what they are, could limit landfill development, some say.
Impetus for a study came from groups opposed to landfill expansion in the area and the Stark-Tuscarawas-Wayne Joint Solid Waste Management District, which oversees waste disposal in the three-county region.
“It’s important that we verify there’s not been any contamination and verify the future of our water supply, so we can say to anybody who’s looking to move here, it (the water) is good and it’s going to be good,” Stark County Commissioner Richard Regula said. Regula serves as vice chairman of the waste management district board.
A staunch foe of landfill expansion, Regula contends the area already has more than its share of land devoted to waste disposal. Some of the landfills are accepting much of their waste from outside the district or even outside Ohio, he said.
Regula opposes plans to build Indian Run Sanitary Landfill in Sandy Township in Stark County and Ridge Landfill in Wayne Township in Tuscarawas County. He also is opposed to expanding American Landfill in Sandy Township and Countywide Recycling & Disposal Facility in Pike Township, a proposal that is under fire from the solid waste district.
The Geological Survey provided the waste management district with a conceptual proposal for a study last month. The district would have to approve and probably pay for the bulk of the study for it to move forward.
With increased population and use of underground water, the Geological Survey proposal says, “policymakers have a need for detailed hydrologic information to make informed decisions regarding future land and water uses in the basin.”
According to the Geological Survey, “land use issues, including landfills, mining and agriculture, threaten the long-term viability and sustainability of the region’s valuable water resources.”
The report said the river basin provides drinking water to almost 600,000 people, including residents of Canton, Wooster, New Philadelphia, Coshocton, Akron and numerous small towns and communities in the region.
The agency has proposed a three-year study, which would include a review of existing data, further investigation of the underlying Buried Valley Aquifer and a final report.
The Geological Survey has yet to say what the study would cost. The federal agency would not pay for it, instead relying on local units of government or groups to finance the work.
Regula anticipates the solid waste management district would assume most of the financial burden.
“I think it’s an appropriate use of solid waste district funds to do studies like this,” he said.
The district finances its operations through tipping fees, which are paid by those that haul refuse to the landfills. The district has a yearly budget of $5.6 million, plus $10.2 million in reserves, executive director David J. Held said.
Whatever its findings, some say the study could become a vehicle for suppressing landfill development while it is being conducted.
State Sen. J. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, plans to introduce a bill to clamp a moratorium on the siting and expansion of landfills in the area until the study is complete, he said.
“While these studies are going on it slows or stops an expansion,” added Regula. “It’s another tool to slow down or stop some of these expansions.”
Jill VanVoorhis, president of Citizens Against American Landfill Expansion in Waynesburg, supports the study and views it as a first step toward restricting landfills in the area.
“We’re hoping through USGS coming in that it will start us on the road of protecting this aquifer system,” she said.