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County Passes Ordinance To Safeguard Groundwater Sources

For their first meeting of the year, the Summit County Board of Health passed a Groundwater Source Protection Ordinance.     It's an area already covered by state code, but the county’s new law reinforces their objective—to let water systems know when development is being proposed that could affect them.   

County Council Member Kim Carson, who also sits on the Health Board, said the new ordinance got support at the Board’s meeting on Monday.   She said it will have a huge impact for the water facilities.

Nathan Brooks, the county’s environmental health director, told KPCW the proposal affects everyone from the county’s farming and ranching community, to single-family lots with septic systems, to school districts with vehicle maintenance facilities.     

“It was being enforced, but the biggest portion of this is that we’re taking a different route on how it’s applied.  We’re giving water systems the opportunity through the planning department, through a process the opportunity to be able to speak what they feel about when they hear a development is occurring in their neck of the woods.  And it’s divided into four zones.  If a development falls into one of those zones, immediately it triggers a red flag and the public water system is then aware that they can put in public comment.   And we work in part with them, and help them through that process.”

Brooks said it’s important for them to protect water quality.      

“We definitely don’t want to have a laundromat come in—and that’s the worse-case scenario—a HazMat development comes in.  We don’t want to see that happen.  And it gives the water company a chance to be able to voice their opinion about that.”

The ordinance was also discussed by County Council Members in their meeting Wednesday.

They mentioned they got some e-mail concerns raised by Tom Clyde, a Woodland resident and a member of the East Side Planning Commission.

Council Chairman Doug Clyde (no relation) said that Tom Clyde’s issues are about the four zones designated in the law.    Two of them relate to areas that are close to a water source.   But Zones Three and Four could be  miles away.      

“The state law makes it clear that within Zone One and Two, it is the responsibility of the person that drills the well to get any necessary easements that might cover Zone One and Two.  Zone Three and Four are less restrictive.   And what our legislation does, simply, is it says you can’t establish a hazardous-waste facility within Zones Three and Four.  And other than that, to my understanding, there’s no land-use restriction that can be put on Zones Three and Four.”

But Carson noted that even for those zones, a water entity can be notified, and can have a conversation with the developer.”      

“They still may be required to have some type of mitigation.  There’s nothing that states that the land owner would then be obligated to pay for that if it wasn’t a hazardous material.    And any decision that comes out of that, or outcome—and the Health Department will act as a third party to help in those discussions.  But any outcome from that can be appealed to the Board of Health.”

Summit County Council Member Kim Carson.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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