NEW WESTON–Residences in the New Weston area have been experiencing well water issues for the past few months.
Twenty-two wells have gone dry, six of them were able to drop the well pump, and 16 of them had to drill a new well. Four houses are still having issues.
On Aug. 7, the village of New Weston held its regular council meeting. Many citizens were in attendance. Teresa “Terry” Birt, a resident of New Weston, wife of Mayor Brad Birt and a fourth-grade educator at Mississinawa Valley Local school, has been doing her homework and is getting factual answers to questions to which residents are concerned.
“I now know more about aquifers and wells than I ever wanted to know,” she said. “The first place I called was Darke County Soil and Water Conservation and was immediately referred to Columbus. I talked to Craig Nelson, who is the Chief of Water Division, a ground water specialist (hydrologist) for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. I have been sending him information about each well loss. He is such an attribute to us.”
She said citizens started losing water in the late spring. Teresa‘s mother-in-law, Barbara Birt, lost her well in June and soon, in July, it was Teresa‘s household. And, the numbers kept growing sporadically.
Teresa said, ”New wells cost over $10,000. One resident paid over $3,000 to have their well pump dropped. We have elderly people in this town who cannot afford the price tag for a new well. We have residents battling cancer who are deciding if they should put in a new well or continue on their cancer treatment plan. It is so sad.”
She said Ginger Magoto from the Darke County Health Department attended the town meeting and handed out informational packets on how to receive funding for the wells.
“She has been extremely helpful to the village. Unfortunately, if you make over $33,000 a year, assistance is not available,” Terry said.
Before she and Brad began having issues, Teresa started her investigation for the people of the community. “Our eyes are open. We love and care about each other here.”
These outages, of course, affected a lot of things going on in each individual household…cooking, laundry, bathing, watering plants, flushing the toilet, and even washing hands.
Here is what Teresa revealed about her recent findings:
“In 1996. FRM investment put up hog barns and proceeded to fill their lagoon. This, in turn, caused a number of residences in New Weston to lose their wells. The situation became extremely fragile. Therefore, when Golden Heritage, CLR Eggs wanted to put up a factory farm in 2021, I attended the meeting. I spoke about FRM investment, causing residents in New Weston to lose water and made it quite clear that there is not enough water to supply the farmers, residents, and a factory farm. They were informed well in advance that water would be an issue, and here we are!”
According to Terry, resident, Mr. Gelhaus put in a new irrigation system at the edge of town.
“Once he started irrigating, residences started going dry. Mr. Gelhaus was agreeing to only irrigate in the evening to help out, but then decided to irrigate in the morning and evening, which caused more residents to go dry,” she said. ”If an operation has the capacity to use 70 gallons of water a minute or more than they are to register with the state unless they were in operation before 1990. However, most farmers are not even aware of this. In a three-mile area, two places are registered, Golden Heritage, CLR Eggs and recently Gelhaus AG, LLC. Therefore, when Golden Heritage, CLR Eggs, was given its permit to build from ODA, Ohio Department of Agriculture, the state had not done the background work necessary to make an informed decision concerning the water. From 1996 to 2023 our water table has dropped about 10 feet. Within a one week time period, a well in New Weston can fluctuate 10 feet.”
She continued, “When you survey the area for new facilities that could be depleting the water, you find Golden Heritage, CLR, Eggs and Gelhaus AG, LLC who continues to irrigate day and night.”
At this point Golden Heritage, she stated, “CLR Eggs have the capacity to use 300,000 to 430,000 gallons of water a day. They are doubling their operation and will have the right to use almost 2 million gallons of water per day before a permit is required. Golden Heritage, CLR Eggs was to report its water usage no later than March 1, 2023. The owner of the facility is in violation of the Ohio Revised Code and it now becomes a legal issue.”
She concluded in her report. “My concern is the fact that they are still letting them continue with the expansion. Yet, their water usage is unknown.”
The residents who had to put in new wells, received a letter from ODNR, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, stating that based on the preliminary assessment, the dewatering of the wells was likely caused by the recent pumping of a new well, that was drilled immediately adjacent to the Village by Gelhaus, AG, LLC.
“We are not alone. This dewatering of communities is happening everywhere! We need to be vigilant and communicate with the legislators and ODA, Ohio Department of Agriculture, that the water needs to be regulated to ensure that all of our communities have access to water.”