Neighbors show concern about DeLand well project

A zoning permit to allow the Village of DeLand to operate new water wells near Monticello was recommended for approval on Nov. 1, but not before a stipulation that neighboring wells be “made whole” if affected by the DeLand project.

The $2.33 million effort is currently sinking two wells at 1871 DeLand-Monticello Road and piping water from the Mahomet Aquifer five miles to DeLand. Last spring the Mahomet Valley Water Authority approved the wells, conditional upon making sure neighbors were not adversely affected.

But after rigs showed up last week to begin drilling, adjacent land owners expressed concern there was still no mechanism in place to address wells if they see substantial drawdown once the DeLand wells begin operating.

“My concern is I have a shallow (70-foot deep) well,” Jim Black told the Piatt County Zoning Board of Appeals at a meeting Nov. 1. “I wonder when they turn this on whether that’s going to suck my well down and I won’t have any water or water pressure.

“I think 90 percent of us are worried about that — what’s going to be done if we run out of water, and who is going to be responsible for taking care of the problem,” continued Brown, one of six neighbors who spoke to the zoning board.

Cara Stoerger, who shares a well with her parents that is about 250 feet from the DeLand ones, was worried about having enough water for their 30 head of livestock.

“We’re kind of concerned what will happen if there is a drawdown, because that’s never been answered,” said Stoerger. “People have horses, they have cattle. People don’t realize if you have animals how this can affect us.”

She said their well is a deep one, 225 feet deep. Burris said the first of the DeLand wells was dug 213 feet down.

The second well may be deeper, as estimates on the Village of DeLand Facebook site estimated the wells would go to 217 and 237 feet. The top of the DeLand wells also start at a lower elevation than their neighbors.

Mike Burris, the engineer for the DeLand water project, said computer models showed that if the well ran at its 200 gallon per minute capacity for 24 hours, the worst case drawdown would be three to four feet at the closest wells, something he feels would be quickly recharged. He added the village only plans to run the pump of a single well three times per day for one hour each time. Since Illinois EPA rules mandate redundancy and thus two wells, they will be used alternately.

“Based on the modeling that was done by Mr. (Ken) Hlinka at the (Illinois ) Water Survey, he’s talking three or four feet in your area, and once you get out close to a mile it would be inches,” said Burris, who thinks there is still fear from a City of Decatur project that draws water from the aquifer when needed.

“There are a lot of people with what happened in Decatur and what happened there it sucked it down, but that’s a completely different scenario,” he said. While the DeLand project is piping water underground, the Decatur one transports H2O by open ditch to Lake Decatur, which Burris called a less efficient “uncontrolled pullout of the Mahomet.”

“I’m not against getting water to DeLand, but there needs to be a contingency,” said Derek Reedy, who lives a little more than a mile from the DeLand wells. He suggested the village consider running additional pipe to other wells to draw from in case their water supply runs low.

Once casings are sunk for the wells, Burris said contractors will run a test of at least six hours with one well operating at full capacity, then test the well on the Stoerger/Shiffer property.

“When we find out what the elevation of the water is in it (the adjacent well), then we’ll know when they do the test: did it drop two feet, did it drop three feet, what did it actually drop to?,” said Burris.

Another factor is where pumps are placed in wells. Pumps located close to the top of the water table are less immune to drawdowns. Burris gave an example of the well used at his home near Mason City, which also draws from the Mahomet Aquifer. He said his 112-foot deep well has a pump at 81 feet, about 30 feet below the top of the water table. That means the water table can drop significantly without affecting the home’s water supply.

ZBA member Bruce Stoddard lives approximately 1.5 miles from the DeLand well site. He actually pulls from the shallower Glasford formation and not the aquifer, but wondered how extensive the testing of neighboring wells will be.

“Typically we don’t test the neighbors, but the MVWA wanted us to check,” said Burris, who felt drawdown tests will be limited to the closest neighboring well unless a severe impact is found in that well.

County zoning code requires a special use permit for a public utility such as the DeLand wells on property zoned agriculture. The county waived the application fee, but ZBA members wanted there to be conditions in place if neighboring water supplies are impacted, including a recommendation that wells within 1.5 miles that are adversely impacted be “made whole.”

“If it was me I would want some sort of guarantee that something was going to happen if there was a failure of my well,” said board member Don Larson.

Reedy added his opinion that there should be a longer time frame on the conditions than just the upcoming well test by the Village of DeLand.

Those conditions will be set by the full county board, which has final say over the special use permit. County Board Chairman Randy Keith said the board will need help from experts to establish the parameters of those conditions, meaning the permit will likely be tabled at the Nov. 8 board meeting.

Keith said he would call a special county board meeting after information is gathered so that the project is not delayed.

“I like conditions,” said Keith. “I can tell you everybody’s going to be made whole, or it (the permit) won’t get my support.”

Burris said contractors are attempting to get enough work done before winter hits to complete the well and piping portion of the project before the end of January, depending on weather conditions and when the aerator and detention tank are delivered. The effort, which is being made possible through grants and loans from the Illinois Rural Development Agency, along with increased village water rates, also includes a new elevated water tower.

Burris added the project is needed mostly due to a lack of capacity. The village’s three current wells generate just 75 gallons per minute, with the highest-capacity one running at 45 gallons per minute. He said there are times when that barely meets water demands in the village, which currently average about 32,000 gallons per day.

 

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