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Village Council— Clean Ohio grant discussed

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A vote on a proposed Clean Ohio grant application for the Glass Farm wetland was expected at Village Council’s Sept. 8 meeting, but members agreed to take action in response to environmental concerns first. Villager Marcia Wallgren, a member of a court-appointed citizen group overseeing the ongoing Vernay remediation, raised the issue of possible toxic contamination in the wetland from the stream along King Street that feeds the area.

The U.S. EPA “wants more characterization of the sediment” in the stream, Wallgren said. In response to a question from Council member Marianne MacQueen, she clarified that most of the sediment tests were done in 2004. These tests found three toxic chemicals above maximum contaminant levels, or MCLs, she said.

“I think it’s premature to attract people to the site,” Wallgren said.

The proposed grant application, put forward by the Yellow Springs Environmental Commission, would seek approximately $80,000 from Clean Ohio for three purposes: to preserve the wetland area with an easement held by Tecumseh Land Trust; to develop basic amenities, such as “low impact” paths and interpretive features, for public enjoyment of the area; and to remove invasive species. TLT would take the lead on the grant, pending approval from its board, which meets later this month. The village would work with TLT to develop the easement for the property. By donating the easement value, as well as other in-kind services and materials, the village would provide the 25 percent local match required for the grant.

The area targeted by the grant consists of seven to eight acres on the eastern portion of the Glass Farm property, and includes the land occupied by the Neighborhood Community Gardens, as well as the access road from King Street. Both these uses would be protected within the easement, MacQueen wrote in a recent report to the Council.

Village Manager Patti Bates noted that concerns about Vernay contamination are ongoing.

“We should probably test the water,” she said. “It’s good to monitor.” On the positive side, she said, the wetland now supports a variety of wildlife, a sign of a healthy ecosystem.

Bates agreed to contact one of the environmental firms the village has used in the past to test the water of the stream that feeds the wetland. “I don’t think this should hold us up in applying for the grant,” she said.

In response to a question from Council member Karen Wintrow, Bates said she had not spoken with Vernay about the project, but would do so. Wintrow also voiced concern that the Village could be taking on liability for cleanup by developing the wetland area for public recreational use.

“Can we approve the grant proposal while remediation is still going on?” she asked.

Village Environmental Commission member Tom Dietrich offered the opinion that cleanup is not the Village’s responsibility. “We are not taking on liability for pollution and cleanup,” he said. He added that the wetland itself is not designed to remediate contamination, but rather functions as a habitat for wildlife and helps to manage stormwater.

“I support moving forward with this grant proposal,” even as remediation is ongoing, said Dietrich.

Wintrow restated her view that the village needed to notify Vernay about the project, as well as relevant officials at the EPA. “And we may need to get legal counsel involved,” she said.

Council agreed that the Environmental Commission and TLT can take the next steps on the grant while these conversations are initiated and testing is arranged. The grant application is due Oct. 30.

Council plans to vote on the Clean Ohio grant at a special session preceding its Sept. 21 work session. The vote would authorize the village manager, working with TLT, to submit the grant.

Other items of Council’s Sept. 8 business will be in next week’s News.

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