Dayton City Commission Passes Water Protection Changes
The Dayton City Commission has passed a controversial set of changes to the city’s source water protection program.
The current code regulates the chemicals around Dayton’s well fields, where most of Montgomery County’s drinking water comes from. Since the late 80s, the zoning code has legislated the amount of potentially hazardous substances that can be stored near the wells. A related regulation, which will remain in place, provides incentives for companies that had chemicals grandfathered in to reduce those chemicals.
The changes have been under discussion for more than a year and the water department staff made several revisions before and after bringing the policy to the plan board, where it was approved last month.
One ordinance reduces the area that would be protected, based on new modeling of the area’s hydrology and projected water demand. The other collection of changes more clearly outlines the process for companies to request exceptions to the chemical limits, and adds a slew of newsubstances to the prohibited list. It also increases the fines for companies who violate the limits.
The areas in Dayton that will no longer be regulated include almost 400 acres of industrial sites with about 5 million pounds of regulated chemicals already in storage.
Opponents to the changes say anything that makes the policy less protective is problematic. As in past meetings, they were out in force at Wednesday's commission meeting, with dozens of speakers asking the commission to reject or revise the proposal. Members of the city’s Environmental Advisory Board continued to voice disagreement with elements of the plan, namely the wording of the conditions of granting a variance.
Those in favor say this is a reasonable update based on new science about how water moves through the area. And they say it’s a fair compromise with businesses that have been requesting more flexibility in the industrial areas near the well fields. The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and several individual business people expressed their support for the updates.
Commissioners passed the changes unanimously. They also passed a resolution promising a continued focus on risk reduction in the source water protection area.