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Published: Monday, 4/1/2013

Personal wells offer relief from Toledo’s water rates

Pumps help avoid soaring costs, mayor's planned increases

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Spot drinks water drawn from a mechanical pump operated by Ronald Mason. The Sylvania Township resident has had well water for more than 20 years. Spot drinks water drawn from a mechanical pump operated by Ronald Mason. The Sylvania Township resident has had well water for more than 20 years.
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Ronald Mason has lived in his Sylvania Township home for more than two decades and in all that time, he’s never had to pay a penny for water.

Unlike nearby neighbors, waterlines carrying city of Toledo water didn’t reach his property and he is happy drinking what is pumped out of the ground.

“It’s the best water I have ever had,” Mr. Mason said. “I think all and all, with the sewer rates and water rates, and everything else, I am not prone to those cost factors.”

Mr. Mason and others who get at least some of their water from the ground are unconcerned with Toledo Mayor Mike Bell’s plan to raise water rates more than 13 percent annually for four years and 4.5 percent more in 2018.

“We always have water, and not even in the severest of the droughts over the years has it gone dry,” Mr. Mason said.

About 500,000 people in Lucas, Wood, Fulton, and Monroe counties could be affected by the increase in water rates if approved by Toledo City Council.

A small number of Lenawee County residents also buy Toledo’s water.

City Law Director Adam Loukx acknowledged that it would be possible for Toledoans to have wells drilled to defray the cost of municipal water, but it doesn’t mean a property owner can disconnect from the city water system.

“We don’t have a specific prohibition but we do have a specific mandate,” Mr. Loukx said. “The city can compel you to hook up to its water, but we can’t make you use it.”

Mr. Loukx said having a well inside the city is possible but would require adherence to a number of state and health department regulations.

Tessie Pollock, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health, said state law requires anyone who constructs a private water system, which includes water wells, used for human consumption to register as a private water-systems contractor and obtain a permit for the installation from the local health district.

Lloyd Pant, owner of Automatic Septic and Well in Holland, estimates the cost for a pump and pressure tank, like this one at Ronald Mason's Sylvania Township home, is about $4,500. Mr. Pant said demand for wells increases when Toledo raises the cost for water service. Lloyd Pant, owner of Automatic Septic and Well in Holland, estimates the cost for a pump and pressure tank, like this one at Ronald Mason's Sylvania Township home, is about $4,500. Mr. Pant said demand for wells increases when Toledo raises the cost for water service.
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If a property owner wants to construct a well for other uses not related to human consumption, such as lawn irrigation or filling a pond, there is no requirement for registration as a private water-systems contractor, and they do not have to obtain a permit and comply with the water rules, Ms. Pollock said in an email.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency also has rules for nonpotable wells.

Lloyd Pant, owner of Automatic Septic and Well in Holland, which drills water wells, said demand increases when the city of Toledo increases water rates.

“You can get a well drilled but just use it for [watering] the lawn and for outside,” Mr. Pant said. “It can’t be used inside.”

The cost could outweigh the benefit — requiring years before mitigating enough of the cost of city water.

“You’d pay approximately $4,500 by the time you get the pump and pressure tank,” he said. “It’s about a 100-foot well, based on 15 to 20 gallons a minute, and sometimes you have to go deeper, but that will cost you more.”

Point wells are more shallow, sometimes between 14 and 17 feet, usually smaller in diameter and have an above-ground pump.

“We drill probably anywhere from 10 to 12 wells a year in the city of Toledo for yards,” Mr. Pant said. “People in Sylvania use Toledo water, and it’s a higher price than Toledo.”

Many communities that buy Toledo water attach a surcharge.

Jim Raab, a hydrogeologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said the state has collected data on wells since the 1940s but it does not track which ones are still in use.

Since the 1940s, there have been 1,295 wells drilled inside the city of Toledo and 10,677 in Lucas County, Mr. Raab said.

“Most will be shallow monitoring wells that would be there to monitor some kind of contamination,” Mr. Raab said.

Some of the city’s big water consumers have water wells, including St. Francis de Sales High School, University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio, and Toledo Country Club.

A 155-foot well was drilled at Inverness Club in 1957 according to state records. Eric Rhodes, Inverness chief operating officer, said the club uses city water. He was unsure if water pumped from the well is used for irrigation.

Sue Kenney, a spokesman for St. Francis high school, said the campus sprinkling system uses well water.

“We have had a water well for 20 years,” Mrs. Kenney said. “When you are trying to maintain soccer fields, baseball diamonds, and a football field, it’s really a money-saver.”

Mr. Mason acknowledged that there are costs associated with a well, including installation and maintenance.

“If you do have a bladder problem with your well system or water system and if there is a maintenance issue, like replacing pumps,” Mr. Mason said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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