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Water Contamination Over, Catawba Turns on the Taps

January 24, 1986

CATAWBA, Ohio (AP) _ A year after residents of this western Ohio village were told not to drink the water because of nitrate contamination, they were able to turn on their taps Thursday and get fresh, clean water from new wells.

″Thank God it’s over with,″ Mayor Marvin Ballard said as he prepared to push the button starting the pumps on the two new wells in this village about 30 miles west of Columbus.

For almost a year, the approximately 350 residents were asked to drink bottled water because of nitrate levels up to four times what is considered safe. A Springfield dairy supplied the bottled water for free.

Ballard said he asked adults to abstain from drinking tap water because he was afraid that children, who are most affected by nitrates, might imitate them.

Experts say nitrates, which can get into groundwater from fertilizer that washes off farm fields during rain, from animal waste and from other sources, can cause a rare disease called methemoglobonimeia in little children. In addition, nitrates may possibly combine with other chemicals in the body to form substances that cause cancer.

About two months ago, nitrate in the water from the old 37-foot-deep wells next to Buck Creek dropped to safe levels and the bottled water was stopped, Ballard said. But the new wells, on a hill and about 360 feet deep, were still needed as a permanent solution to the contaminant problem, he said.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has not been able to find the source of the contamination in the old water system.

″They’ve throwed it around that it was a cattle lot up the creek, that it was nitrates running off farm fields. But we’ve never had any problem until they dynamited the bridge down the road there,″ he said, motioning toward a reconstructed highway bridge over the creek, about 10 yards from the 30-year- old wells.

Some residents said they appreciated the new wells, but didn’t understand all the hoopla.

″To tell you the truth, I’ve been drinking it all along,″ Nancy Douglas said. Postmaster Donna Mingus called it ″kind of an old topic of conversation at this point.″

The new wells and pumping equipment cost about $100,000, Ballard said. About $57,000 of that came from the state and county, and the village took out a loan from the Ohio Water Development Authority for the rest.

Village water bills have gone from $7.05 a month to more than $15 as a result. ″I think to get this water and use all you want for another $8 is cheap,″ Ballard said.

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