Not a Drop to Drink for Parkman Community
May 12, 2022 by Valerie S. Clause

In the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by poet Samuel Coleridge, the speaker laments there is “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”

In the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by poet Samuel Coleridge, the speaker laments there is “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”

This expression rings true for several residents of a Parkman Township neighborhood who are appealing to Geauga Public Health for assistance with salt run-off from an Ohio Department of Transportation storage area on Tavern Road.

Parkman resident Mike Derifield and Herb Schreiber, of Solon, who owns residential properties in the affected area, presented their concerns and findings at the Geauga County Board of Health meeting April 27.

“They have an ODOT facility that houses salt in that township and you can see where it’s killing off trees, killing off grass — they’re having water table issues that are rusting out water heaters in a year or two at a time,” said GPH Administrator Adam Litke. “ODOT is not being super helpful.”

Derifield and Schreiber brought handouts for board members showing pictures of the pipes and hot water tank in his home that have been damaged by salt water, along with reports showing the sodium and chloride levels from testing done by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

“All the papers you have in front of you are from the EPA and ODOT,” Derifield said. “Nothing came from me other than the pictures that I took. The pictures show the damage on my property. It shows the run-offs, in the little pictures, it shows the run-offs from the ODOT facility, how it runs off and goes right into the streams, into our water source.”

Wells downhill from the salt storage area are contaminated with sodium, chloride and bromide, they said.

“The numbers show the bromide is from halide, which is rock salt,” said Derifield, adding he has spoken with multiple agencies, including the EPA, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and ODOT.

Affected residents have not received a resolution.

“ODOT has nothing to do with it,” Derifield said. “They’ve turned it over to their attorneys. They said they wouldn’t even talk to me.”

Schreiber, a chemist who specializes in water analysis, presented a summary of the test findings. He said the salt dome is contaminating the wells and a house uphill from the ODOT location does not have a problem with salt in their well water, nor does one home with a 300-foot well, but other houses nearby are affected.

“It’s the chloride-bromide ratio” Schreiber said. “If that’s greater than 1,000, that’s indicative of road salt contamination. That’s what the EPA goes by.”

Parkman Township Trustee Henry Duchscherer also was at the board meeting appealing for help. He said nothing has happened in the past nine, 10 months they’ve been talking with the EPA and ODOT.

“My concern is, I have residents that can’t drink the water and they have to buy water. That’s just not right,” Duchscherer said.

He explained there are two aquifers at different levels in the area that residents draw water from. If the aquifer at less depth is already contaminated, he worries continued run-off may affect the deeper aquifer, which would impact even more residents.

“We’re looking at all of Parkman’s water,” Duchscherer said. “Four years ago, they put this (the salt storage) at the top of the hill and it goes straight down into the town.”

Duchscherer knows how he would like to see the issue resolved.

“Our end game is we want this salt dome moved out of Parkman, or it could be placed in Parkman somewhere it is not going to contaminate the ground water,” said Duchscherer.

Health board member Carolyn Brakey asked if the residents had contacted an attorney, explaining a letter from an attorney sometimes gets more attention.

“I’ve been holding off hoping that our local government could help us without going to that extreme,” Derifield said.

Litke said both he and Lark have been working with the affected residents for the past couple months, but this is an ongoing issue he wanted the board to be aware of.

“This is happening right here in our community and they’re up against a brick wall,” Litke said.

Board member Ashley Jones acknowledged the significance of the issue.

“I am genuinely concerned,” she said. “And I am very sorry this is the first that this is coming to our attention, so I appreciate you guys bringing this forward.”