Salt contamination threatens Camden water supply

CAMDEN, Preble County — The village of Camden could lose its water supply within six weeks because of high levels of road salt and associated contaminants in the village’s drinking water wells, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency began an in-ground investigation Wednesday, Aug. 18, after resident complaints about the taste of the water.

Water in one of the village’s three wells has too much salt and brine for drinking , said Heather Lauer, an Ohio EPA spokeswoman. A second well in current use is experiencing higher salt levels, which continue to rise, she said. The third well is not being used to avoid potential contamination.

“At the rate that the salt is rising, they could lose that whole well field within six weeks,” Lauer said.

The wells serve about 2,500 village residents, Lauer said.

Camden’s water is considered safe to drink, but the village is providing bottled water to residents who don’t like the taste, Lauer said.

The agency in August 2009 notified Camden business owner Rod Good that large, uncovered salt piles on his property posed a potential threat to the village’s drinking water and runoff from the piles could contaminate surface streams.

In addition to the runoff, a field tile drained some of the salty water to a nearby stream bed that is dry during part of the year. Much of the moisture that falls into the stream during summer months percolates into the ground and subsequently the aquifer, Lauer said.

Good and Camden Mayor Sylvanis Gunter Jr. did not respond to requests for comment.

To provide safe drinking water, the village must determine if the well field problem can be reversed, “which given how quickly the salt (level) is going up may not be possible at this point,” Lauer said.

The agency and village are focused on protecting the wells or finding another source of drinking water, either by drilling new wells or connecting the village to another water system. Cost estimates were not available for those options.

Any potential financial liability on Good’s part is yet to be determined, Lauer said.

“Right now it’s just too early to tell,” Lauer said. “Everybody is more focused on getting an idea of what’s going on and where the highest saturations of salt are in the groundwater,” she said.

The Ohio EPA will participate in a Camden village council meeting about the problem at 6 p.m. today at the Higher Heights Church of God, 8111 South U.S. 127 in Camden.

People who would like to receive updates can call Erika Wiggins at (614) 644-2160 to have their names added to an interested parties list.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2419 or