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Couple say inaction rubs salt in wounds
Couple say inaction rubs salt in wounds
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
When James and Lisa Muzic were building their home on Woodie Glen Drive in Chardon Township in 1999, they said, they had one thing on their minds. They were looking for the best programs a school could offer their special-needs daughter.
Chardon schools offered what they were looking for, Mrs. Muzic said. "It was the only reason we moved from Mentor."
But their new home for the next 10 years would only bring them questions, she said. Why was the water from their well so salty? Why were their plumbing and water-treatment systems constantly corroding and wearing out?
Mr. Muzic said it started with their first water well and continued as two more wells were drilled. He said he asked his neighbors, and they told him, "It's just Chardon water."
The Geauga County Health Department said the water was fine, because it did not contain coliform bacteria, Mr. Muzic said.
But Mrs. Muzic said the questions continued as the couple watched their plantings of about a half dozen pine trees die, as well as deciduous trees on the property. She said the path of drainage water from the home also left a line of dead vegetation in the woods. She said vaporizers used in the home had a layer of salt residue at the bottom.
Then, early this February, the Muzic family believed their questions all those years were answered, they said. After calling the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in September, a report by that agency pointed to the Chardon Township road garage, where road salt was mixed with cinders on unpaved ground. The Ohio EPA said the salt had made its way into the area aquifers and into the Muzics' well and eight others in the area.
"All I wanted to do was to go to the faucet and get a drink of water," Mr. Muzic said. "I'm as regular a guy as regular can be."
In order to accomplish that, though, the couple had to install water-softening systems, including a reverse-osmosis system, in an attempt to get potable water, he said. Every time they had to drill a new well, he said, it meant abandoning the previous one, which cost about $1,400.
Mrs. Muzic said she got a rain barrel to ensure clean water for her houseplants.
Mr. Muzic said the driller who saw the problems after the second water well also pointed to the township's road salt operations as the possible
The Muzics said they went to township Trustee Charles Strazinsky Jr., but he asked them to prove it. They said they spent $400 to test their water and found high levels of salt, but that still did not convince officials.
Mrs. Muzic said that's when they got the EPA involved, and it ultimately pointed to the township operations as the source.
"It's proved more than beyond the shadow of a doubt. We've proved it," Mr. Muzic said.
Mrs. Muzic said the salt is not considered a "major health concern" by EPA officials, but there have been effects on her husband's health. She said he had to go on high-blood-pressure medication four years after moving in and suffered a heart attack in 2003.
The Muzics and another area couple addressed Township Trustees two weeks ago at their regular meeting. The other couple asked whether the township would at least stop mixing the salt and cinders on the open ground but were told the practice would continue, because the safety of people on the roads is important.
Mrs. Muzic said she's not asking the township not to use salt but at least change where it is mixed. "Just because they have been doing something for 28 years doesn't mean it's right," she said.
For now, the Muzics said they would like the township to help them by alleviating some of the costs they have incurred over the 10 years they've dealt with corroded pumps, hoses and numerous service calls.
Mr. Muzic said it doesn't even include the hours he spent remedying the water-system problems. "We're not looking to bleed the township dry," he said. "We are looking to resolve this problem and recover our costs."
Mrs. Muzic said they were asked by the township to prepare a list of costs, which they estimated at $28,000 for equipment, parts and service and $11,000 for the bottled water they have bought over the years.
Besides their costs, Mrs. Muzic said, they would like the township to stop mixing the salt and cinders where it's done now. She said she was told by one EPA official that the salt would likely remain in their aquifer for at least another decade, if not decades.
"I'm not going to go through one more road-salt season with that shed back there," she said.
Mrs. Muzic said she understands that no one did it intentionally, that it was only a mistake on the township's part. But she said she cannot understand township officials continuing their practices if they know what it's doing to people's drinking water.
Mr. Muzic said he believes, if the salt is going to stay in the ground water for decades, the only fair solution is to bring waterlines from the city of Chardon to their area from about 0.8 miles away. "The only acceptable resolution is to have city water and reimbursement from them," he said.
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