Earlier this year, the United States Geologic Services began the process of siting test wells and collecting data from the aquifers in northwest Ohio, northeast Indiana and southern Michigan.

Wednesday, USGS Hydrologist Alex Riddle gave a PowerPoint overview of the project to date to members of the Ohio Michigan Indiana (OMI) Council of Governments, which met online, and for the first time since August. The group meets on an as-needed basis.

Riddle said the project, which began earlier this year, is focused on a combination of converting old wells and drilling new wells to serve as monitoring and real-time data collection wells. He said thus far, three existing wells — two in Williams County and one in Defiance County — have been converted from unused wells to monitoring wells, with four more to be dug in the area in the coming weeks or months.

Riddle said the aim of the USGS project is to prepare scientific modeling by using the wells to collect data on the various features of the aquifer, such as depth, conductivity and structure.

The OMI includes representatives from Williams, Defiance, Fulton, Steuben, Lenawee, Branch and Hillsdale counties in the tri-state area. It began meeting earlier this year in the wake of the controversial proposed project by Artesian of Pioneer to drill into the local aquifer as a possible source of water for various mostly governmental entities in Henry, Fulton, Lucas and Wood counties.

The AOP project was put on hold in late 2019 when most of those entities joined the Toledo Water Commission. AOP’s founder and president is Ed Kidston, also mayor of Pioneer.

But the proposed project, and the lack of scientific data available on the aquifer, spurred legislation spearheaded by local State Rep. Jim Hoops and State Sen. Rob McColley to bring the USGS into the picture, along with $500,000 dedicated to a project to study the tri-state aquifer (which was commonly if erroneously called the Michindoh Aquifer) over the next two years.

Hoops has said one reason the USGS took a role in this issue over the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is because the USGS can work across state lines.

Attending the meeting Wednesday were Williams County Commissioner Brian Davis; Defiance County Commissioner Ryan Mack, Lenawee County (Mich.) Commissioner Mike Hard; Hillsdale County (Mich.) Commissioner Mark Wiley; Branch County (Mich.) Commissioner Bud Norman; Steuben County (Ind.) Commissioner Lynne Liechty; and Riddle, Rob Darner and Neal Mathes from the USGS.

On Thursday, Davis told The Bryan Times the USGS project is the good thing that came out of the heated and controversial AOP drilling proposal, in which it was revealed that no comprehensive data is available on the tri-state aquifer.

“(The study is) in the very early stages, but I was impressed with the data that they did produce in such a short period of time so far. It’s very educational ... I think it helps us understand this series of underground aquifers better ... It’s such an important natural resource that we don’t know much about yet,” Davis said.

Also Wednesday:

• Wiley advised the group that he and Davis had put together a grant application that was submitted about a week ago to the State of Michigan. Davis said it is similar to the one that is funding the current work in Ohio, requesting $500,000 to be used for testing the aquifer in Michigan. Wiley said the application was received, but there has been no decision to date on whether the grant will be awarded.

• The OMI members Wednesday approved officers for 2021. They are: President: Wiley; Vice President: Davis; Secretary: Mack; Treasurer: Liechty.

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