I have a half a dozen clients who run very different types of businesses over the Dayton well field. All have different rules and regulations about what they can and can’t have in their buildings. None of them have any desire to pollute the well field- or our drinking water- that wouldn’t benefit them, or our community, but the insanity of the actual laws should make everyone in this community stop and wonder what geniuses put this monstrosity into effect.
To bring people up to speed, who may not know what our “well field protection ordinances” are- or why we have them, let’s go back in time. About one hundred years ago- when Dayton was an industrial powerhouse. Back then, there were machine shops and manufacturing plants all over our city. There was even a small machine shop in the alley behind my house when I first moved to South Park. It went up in a crazy hot blaze of fire about 20 years ago- and the building was only recently demolished.
Back in those days, companies big and small had no clue what to do with waste oil, cleaning fluids and the like. Some burned it in open pits, others poured it in the ground, others put it in drums and stored it- only to have the drums leak. It wasn’t until the seventies with the charter of the EPA by the federal government, that everyone got hip to the fact that trichloroethylene, a common industrial solvent was a serious carcinogenic toxin.
Our Dayton well field pumps water out of a giant underground limestone aquifer- said to be one of the largest in the world. And, for a long time, companies in town routinely fouled it. Times changed, with the federal and state EPA regulations. Users of hazardous chemicals were required to maintain extensive logs of their industrial inputs and outputs. Material Data Safety Sheets had to be kept on hand, as did emergency procedures for a spill. The days of wild and wooly hazardous waste disposal were long over by the time the Sherwin Williams paint warehouse burned to the ground on May 27, 1987.
That fire burned for days, with firefighters standing by, trying to contain runoff and not pouring water on the flames- so as not to contaminate the well field. Citizens were terrified that our water supply might get polluted- sales of bottled water skyrocketed and a young Dayton City Commissioner, Mark Henry, introduced his original “Well field protection” ordinance.
If that piece of legislation were still in place, there would be no outcry of the local business owners, but over time, changes in the rules have caused it to be onerously restrictive, very capricious in its enforcement. In other words- it’s silly and enforced randomly.
On Brandt Pike there is this little chemical storage facility- right over the aquifer.
One only has to drive out Brandt Pike, just past Stanley Ave., to pass the BP fuel farm where a hundred gazillion gallons of fuel sit smack on top of our well field. A little spillage of the underground pipes would hardly be noticed- and would easily contaminate our water supply. They are allowed to be there- they just can’t add capacity under the current laws.
In the meantime- my baker friend, has a limit of 6 gallons of bleach in his facility. Bringing in the seventh bottle of Clorox would put him in violation. Another friend, who has a machine shop- has reached his limit of cutting oil with his current number of CNC machines, he can’t add a machine, without breaking the law. Never mind the fact that modern day CNC machines are practically hermetically sealed systems that totally prevent leaks- compared to the old school open lathes that were as common as street lights in our manufacturing heyday.
Regulations that are in place now set limits on chemicals based on a base line of when the laws were written. An analogy would be restricting the houses on your block based on the occupants of each home on a random day 20 years ago. If you had 3 kids and grandma and grandpa were visiting- you could have 3 kids and 4 adults in that house, while the house next door- would have been permanently banned from occupancy because your neighbors were on vacation.
The recent situation in Toledo with the algae bloom contamination of Lake Erie is no different than what’s been going on for years in Celina with Grand Lake/Lake St. Marys which is a cesspool of industrial agriculture runoff. This is an entirely different problem- much akin to the old school pouring of toxic chemicals down the drain or into the ground- because companies are too cheap or don’t care about the implications. Sustainable agriculture methods can eliminate almost all of this toxic runoff- but, big ag is more powerful than the people who have to live with their needless pursuit of cheaper crops- even if the side effects are heinous.
If Dayton was serious about protecting our wellfield- there would be no fuel farm sitting over our water supply. But, that would cost hundreds of millions to relocate.
Common sense needs to come to our regulations- with good working relationships between regulators and the regulated, to cooperatively protect our water and our community. For all the “experts” claiming that any changes to the ordinance would put us in greater danger- the reality is, every one of us who has ever cleaned out a paint brush has done more to pollute our well field than many of these regulated businesses. It’s time for some collaboration to come up with a modern, enforceable, realistic set of rules, processes and procedures, and not keep these convoluted rules on the books, because one day, the baker may want to have 7 gallons of bleach to clean and sanitize his bakery, and we wouldn’t want him to be raided by the water protection police.