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ODOT marks Hecla protection areas

ROME TOWNSHIP – The latest way to protect county residents’ drinking water can now be seen along Ohio 7 in southeastern Lawrence County.

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

ROME TOWNSHIP – The latest way to protect county residents’ drinking water can now be seen along Ohio 7 in southeastern Lawrence County.

A state "drinking water protection area" sign, including a phone number for reporting spills, has been placed along the roadway near Hecla Water’s treatment plant, said Cecil Townsend of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s District 9.

Working closely with the Ohio EPA, ODOT designed the new white signs with blue lettering for the state’s groundwater systems serving more than 500 people and having an EPA-accepted Wellhead Protection Plan (WPP), Townsend said.

The signs were designed to alert motorists that a protected drinking water source is nearby, he said.

Hecla Water, the largest water system in Lawrence County, provides drinking water to nearly 34,000 residents in rural areas, said assistant manager Regina Fields.

Hecla’s WPP has been under way since 1988, and the ODOT signs are the last item to complete the plan, Ms. Fields said.

The signs were placed at mile markers 13 and 14, the outer boundary lines of the five-year time of travel for the Hecla Water wellfield, she said.

"Five year time of travel means it would take five years for a contaminant to reach the wells if it were detected at the outer boundary line of the area," Ms. Fields explained. "The purpose of these signs is to provide an awareness of the protected area to people who live, work or are just passing through the area."

Hecla Water draws about three million gallons of water from the ground aquifer every day. The water in the aquifer is replenished by precipitation runoff from the adjacent hills and creeks upstream, she said.

The structure of the sand and gravel aquifer allows for excellent movement of water underground but the same structure makes it more vulnerable to pollution by human activities such as chemical tanker accidents on state highways, Ms. Fields said.

"The process to apply for signs and then get them made and installed by ODOT takes time, but the end result was well worth the wait," she said.