Charles Hurt had to go down about 32 feet with the well depth indicator probe until he hit water in the 84-foot-deep well that had provided water for a residence at 204 Anderson Ave., in Alvordton. But the house was demolished years ago and the well has sat unused until Hurt, a geologist with the United States Geological Survey, and Rob Darner, a USGS hydrologist, arrived on a sunny summer day earlier this month to convert it into a monitoring well — part of a newly initiated project to collect data on the system of aquifers underneath Williams and adjacent counties.
“We’re changing this residential (water) well into a monitoring well,” Darner explained as he and Hurt installed a stainless steel box full of digital monitoring equipment on top of the well casing, with the equipment powered by a 20-watt solar panel attached to the side of the box.
“Once the instruments are installed, it’ll give us (monitoring) data in real time,” said Darner.
The Alvordton well is one of seven local monitoring wells in the project, Darner said. Three, including the Alvordton well, are existing water wells that the USGS has renovated into monitoring wells. One is in Northwest Township and one is in Defiance County, Darner said.
Four new wells will be drilled in the Williams/Defiance county area, with bid solicitations out to drillers later this year
All wells are or will be installed on publicly owned property, usually owned by the local township, Darner said. For instance, the Alvordton well is on property owned by Brady Township.
The project was triggered by $500,000 that was inserted into a line item in 2019 in the Ohio biennial budget by State Rep. Jim Hoops and State Sen. Rob McColley, both of Napoleon.
Their efforts were in response to the controversial plan first publicized in 2018 by Ed Kidston, CEO of Artesian of Pioneer, that drew heated opposition from residents in Williams and surrounding counties.
Kidston’s plans, first detailed in a series of stories in The Bryan Times in June and July 2018, consisted of drilling into the local underground system of aquifers — commonly referred to as the Michindoh — and selling the water to Napoleon, Whitehouse and Liberty Center (and the Henry County Water and Sewer District, which in 2019 merged with the Northwestern Water and Sewer District) and Toledo and surrounding entities, including Perrysburg, Sylvania and Maumee.
However, in late 2019, those suburban communities signed a 40-year agreement to form a water commission with Toledo. Kidston said at the time that without his anticipated customers, he probably would not go forward with the plan, though he does have a test well on a site north of Fulton County Road S, northwest of Fayette.
The USGS is working on the project in cooperation with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), according to David Lampe, supervisory hydrologist with the USGS Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center, based in Indianapolis. He said the objectives of the project are to use the monitoring wells to obtain real time data and create an ongoing model of the underground aquifer in the northwest Ohio, northeast Indiana and southern Michigan region.
Lampe’s posting, “Hydrogeologic Mapping, Data Collection and Geologic Framework of Glacial Deposits in a Multi-county Area of Northwest Ohio, Northeast Indiana, and South Michigan,” is on the USGS website at: https://www.usgs.gov/centers/oki-water/science/hydrogeologic-mapping-data-collection-and-geologic-framework-glacial?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects.
The objectives include using water well drillers’ logs and other available data to prepare a digital geologic framework of the underground glacial aquifer system in the nine-plus-county area of northwestern Ohio, northeastern Indiana and southern Michigan.
Lampe’s posting says the digital geologic framework developed from the study will be used to define characteristics of the multi-state underground aquifer, including the thickness of glacial deposits over bedrock, the approximate elevation of the bedrock surface and the hydraulic conductivity and transmissivity characteristics of the aquifer as obtained through sediment analysis, aquifer tests or other sources.
This long-term monitoring network “helps fill in areas that lack sufficient monitoring and establish new groundwater sites in the region,” Lampe’s posting said.
Lampe was unavailable Thursday and Friday for comment. But his posting notes the data will be made publicly available through the USGS NWISWeb interface.
Lampe’s posting also states the USGS hopes to identify existing groundwater wells throughout the nine-county area (potentially both publicly and privately owned wells), and record instantaneous groundwater levels during the growing (irrigation) and non-growing seasons “to understand the distribution of groundwater in the aquifer system.”
He said the relevance and benefit of the project is to “provide the region’s citizens, officials and natural-resource planners with information needed to understand and manage the surface-water and groundwater resources.
“Long-term understanding of the water budget of the region is of critical interest to residents, agriculture, commerce and future development as the aquifer is the only source of drinking water to this area. Improved mapping of the extent of aquifer deposits is of critical need to assess water resources,” Lampe said previously.