< P.O. Box 70, Woodsfield, OH  43793  <


Below are links to portions of this week's news articles. For the full story, pick up a  paper at your local newss tand or send $1 with your name/address to P.O. Box 70, Woodsfield, OH  43793.


 August 23, 2007 Edition

< School Board Votes 3-2 on Proposed Income Tax Levy

It was another full-house meeting as Switzerland of Ohio school board members heard the concerns of several residents during the board’s August 16 meeting. Speaking to the board in this photo is Debbie Archer, who reported an expense evaluation of the
district schools.

by Arlean Selvy - Publisher
A resolution to place an income tax levy on the Nov. 6 ballot was adopted at the Aug. 16 meeting of Switzerland of Ohio board of education The board also voted to support deconsolidation and put a new roof on the Cameron Annex. Board member votes were split in all three areas. Voting against an Income Tax Levy were Ron Winkler, board president, and Jeff Williamson. Voting in favor of the tax were board members Ed Carleton, Scott Dierkes and Teresa Gallagher.
If voters of the Switzerland of Ohio School District approve the proposed Income Tax Levy, collection would begin in January. The Income Tax, which would be collected for five years, would provide $1,837,138 annually for operational expenses. The tax would be levied against earned income. It would also apply to income earned on the estate of a deceased person who resided in the district. (Except for income taxes under the tax base created by H.B. 66.)
A motion by Gallagher to adopt a resolution supporting deconsolidation was met with one ‘no’ vote. Voting against the action was Winkler. Passed on the 4-1 vote was a resolution to facilitate the Ohio Department of Education feasibility study of the deconsolidation of the district. According to the resolution: “... the district has struggled the last 30 plus years to gain consensus and support for educational opportunities for our children this board, elected by taxpayers in favor of deconsolidation, resolves to support local control of schools.” The resolution makes note that the board is committed to move the district forward in a progressive manner so students can continue to be offered an education which is competitive with other area schools. “... the board resolves to leave no stone unturned in pursuit of moving the district toward modern facilities and opportunities in our local communities.” District officials continue to answer questions posed by the Department of Education with regard to the feasibility study for deconsolidation.
The board was split 3-2 on whether or not a new roof should be put on the Cameron Annex. Voting no were Gallagher and Dierkes. According to Todd Allen, director of support services, three bids were received for the roof, but two did not meet the specifications and one was well above the estimate. The bids were rejected and the board voted to declare an emergency and accept a cheaper version than called for in the specifications. Allen explained differences include the type of finish used on the roof. The board voted on a roof with a price tag of $31,960.
A motion to accept district asbestos bids was approved unanimously. With regard to asbestos removal from all schools, a motion by Dierkes at the July 26 meeting to have the work done died for lack of a second. There was one proposal quoting a cost on some schools and an hourly rate on others. Discussion led to the decision to get additional quotes. No cost was quoted at the August 17 meeting.
A number of visitors spoke during public participation, sharing ideas about where district monies should be spent and why. Karen Harper, a retired teacher, suggested the board spend their money on a roof for Woodsfield High School. She said plaster is falling off the ceiling and water has to be mopped up. She noted that hundreds of students use the facility for activities. Harper suggested if a new roof is put on WHS and the asbestos removed, she would try to get community volunteers to come in and do interior painting, fixing up three more classrooms so that freshmen could eventually hold classes at WHS. “The money would be more wisely spent at Woodsfield High School,” she said.
David Highman pointed out to the board that if they don’t maintain Woodsfield High, they’ll be spending money to tear it down. He said people won’t put up with eyesores in the middle of town. He suggested they get rid of modulars: “Sell them to somebody who can use them.” Highman said the board should not allow the WHS auditorium to go to waste. “Merchants will donate materials at cost to use there,” he said. “[The auditorium] can be used in even more ways than it is.”
Jason Harter, who is employed with the probation office, said help could be available through the county court and inmates could help clean the high school.
Adrienne Burkhart and Susan Moore both spoke in support of keeping Cameron a viable place for students. Moore teaches Bright Beginnings Pre-School at Cameron. “If we don’t have Cameron, we will have to come up with a place for pre-schools,” she said, noting pre-school is mandatory.
Combating the precept that Cameron should be closed because of flooding, Burkhart said there has been only one flood in 13 years. “I hate to give up a perfect atmosphere for freshmen,” she said. “Find a way to fix both facilities.” Switzerland of Ohio board of education meets the third Thursday of each month at the Central Office located on Mill Street in Woodsfield. Meetings begin at 6 p.m.


< Homestead Exemption Provides Property Tax Relief

Monroe County Auditor Pandora Neuhart and Deputy Auditor Sue Merckle visited senior centers around the county to help qualified seniors apply for the new Homestead property tax exemption which has no income guidelines. Seniors must apply by Oct. 1, 2007, to receive the exemption on their 2008 taxes. Shown with Neuhart and Merckle are Gerald Ward of Lewisville, Jean Coplan of Woodsfield and waiting in line is Nina Yoss of Woodsfield.                                  


State Representative Jennifer Garrison was on hand
Aug. 15 at the Monroe County Senior Center to help
qualified residents complete application forms for the
new Homestead real estate exemption. Shown with
Garrison are John and Kay Curtis of Sardis.

Photos by Martha Ackerman      

by Martha Ackerman - Staff Writer
The new Homestead Exemption will provide property tax relief for Ohio homeowners, 65 years and older and qualifying disabled individuals regardless of income. The new real estate tax reduction is part of Governor Ted Strickland’s 2007-09 biennial budget. During the week of Aug. 13, Monroe County Auditor Pandora Neuhart and Deputy Auditor Sue Merckle visited community centers in Midway, Clarington, Lewisville, Bethel and Woods-field as well the E-squad building in Beallsville and the volunteer fire department buildings in Sardis and Graysville. The visits were specifically held to provide information and registration for a new exemption which exempts $25,000 property value.
“People need to know that this reduction is not coming out of Monroe County’s tax base,” said Neuhart. “The state will reimburse the county.” Also, she noted that if a tax levy passes, the tax reduction would go up, which would compensate qualified senior citizens.
On Aug. 15 State Rep. Jennifer Garrison joined Neuhart at the Monroe County Senior Center to help seniors with the application process. There is only one catch to the exemption, noted Gov. Strickland recently. Senior homeowners MUST file an application by Oct. 1, 2007. If seniors are currently receiving the Homestead exemption, noted on their real estate bills, they do not have to apply. According to Garrison, one of the most asked questions is if property in a life estate or trust is eligible. The answer is “yes” if the life estate or trust is in the senior’s name. Manufactured homes are also eligible for the property tax reduction. Neuhart noted that if a surviving spouse is 59 years old or older upon the death of a qualified spouse (65 years or older), they are eligible to continue receiving the tax reduction if the property was co-owned. Property deeded on a land contract is also eligible. When applying for the tax exemption, qualified applicants must bring a copy of the deed (if it is a life estate or trust) or a copy of the land contract. When applying, applicants will need proof of ID with a birth certificate, Ohio ID or driver’s license. If qualified seniors have not yet applied, they must do so by Oct. 1, 2007. For more information or to receive an application form, contact the auditor’s office at 740-472-0873.


<Court Decision Could Have Far Reaching Affects in Gas Industry

A decision about this well, shown on left, could have
far reaching affects in the oil and gas industry. The
Datkuliak family has been ordered to plug and cap the gas well which has provided heat to the residences and farm buildings for 17 years. Shown are Charles and Beverly Datkuliak, owners of the Sunsbury Township property, and their daughter Elaine and her husband Lawrence Truex and their children, Sarah and Jessie.         Photo by Martha Ackerman

by Martha Ackerman - Staff Writer

“I’m not disputing the coal mine’s rights or the judge’s decision, but all deed language is different,” said Mike Datkuliak, a Beallsville resident whose family has been ordered to plug and cap a gas well that has been serving family members for the last 17 years.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with the property across the road (part of the over 100 acre farm), the language is different in that deed.” Mike Datkuliak is speaking of a recent Monroe County Com-mon Pleas Court decision that concerns his family and could have far reaching affects in the oil and gas industry.
The case has been appealed to the Seventh District Ohio Appellate Court and other entities have become interested in the outcome of that decision. Mike’s parents, Charles and Beverly Datkuliak own the Sunsbury Township property and the well in question is owned by Charles. It has provided free and reliable gas to a residence and other buildings on the Datkuliak property since 1990.
Datkuliaks’ daughter Elaine and her husband Lawrence Truex and two children, Jessie and Sarah, live on the farm and depend on the gas well for heat. “Jessie is really upset by this situation,” said Mike. Other farm buildings and an ultra light airplane hangar are also heated by the gas well. Also in jeopardy are the water resources on the property on which 130 cattle are pastured.
The mining operation has already caused subsidence in the hayfield making “some springs dry up” and damaging fencing. In some cases the fences are so tight they have snapped above the posts and in other areas, the fence is very loose and sagging. In 1922, in a Coal Severance Deed, title to the coal estate and rights to the surface estate were separated, but with a very important reservation –
“Said Grantors reserve unto themselves and their heirs and assigns the right to drill and operate through said vein of coal for oil, gas and other minerals.” The reservation in the deed dated November, 1922, was made when previous owner Johnson Orn sold the No. 8 vein of coal to A.A. Caldwell. In 1923 Caldwell sold the vein of coal to S.H. Robbins. The reservation stayed in the deed language. Charles and Beverly purchased the property in 1973 and in 1987 they entered into an oil and gas lease with The Oxford Oil Company. The gas well was drilled in 1989 and in 1990, the Datkuliaks purchased the gas well from The Oxford Oil Company.
In December, 2006, American Energy Corp. who acquired ownership of the coal rights in 1995, notified the Datkuliaks that they would be longwall mining under their property and their well would have to be plugged and capped. According to Datkuliak’s attorney, Richard Yoss, on April 24, 2007, without the knowledge or consent of the Datkuliaks, American Energy Corporation completed and filed with the Division of Mineral Resources an expedited application to plug the well, signing under oath that they were the owner or authorized agent of the owner of the well.
According to Mike Datkuliak, an employee of the Division of Mineral Resources contacted the family and found no authorization had been given. The expedited application was denied by the Division of Mineral Resources. On May 7, the coal company filed a complaint against the Datkuliaks asking the Monroe County Common Pleas Court for an order compelling the well to be plugged. The Datkuliaks filed a declaratory judgment action against the coal company.
According to Yoss, the cases were consolidated and “fast tracked” due to the fact that the area where the well is located is scheduled to be mined in early November.
After a two-day trial, Judge Julie Selmon, Monroe County Common Pleas Court, rendered a decision stating that American Energy Corp. has the right to mine the Pittsburgh No. 8 vein of coal without liability for damages to the surface or to the Datkuliaks’ well.
She so ordered the Datkuliaks to immediately plug and cap the well at their own cost with no compensation due for the loss of the well or the cost of plugging and capping it. According to Mike Datkuliak, who has done extensive research and documentation on his family’s case, the Ohio Revised Code mandates compensation.
“But the judge gave it all away,” he lamented. The cost of plugging and capping could cost the family $15,000 or more. They are currently attempting to find a contractor to comply with the judge’s order, but hope the Court of Appeals reverses the decision.
According to a summary provided by Yoss, “the case has far reaching ramifications and would logically require the plugging of any well in the path of any longwall mining, regardless of the commercial value of the well.” According to Yoss, the cost of drilling a well is between $175,000 and $200,000.
“If this precedent stands up, it’s frightening,” said the attorney. An expedited appeal was filed with the appellate court. The Court of Appeals granted the Datkuliaks’ request and ordered AEC to file an answer brief within 10 days after the complete record on appeal is filed. The court stated that the matter would “be promptly scheduled for oral argument once all briefs have been filed.” The 10 day period ended Aug. 16.
Mike Datkuliak has enlisted the help of Sen. Joy Padgett and Rep. Jennifer Garrison. Sarah and Jessie Truex wrote letters to the officials. “When I grow up, I would like to live somewhere on my grandparents’ farm,” wrote Sarah. “I am planning on using the gas well if it is still here. I was hoping to use the gas well for free heat and not have to worry about running out of propane or whatever I use for heat.” “The gas well means a lot to me ...,” wrote Jessie. “My question is why can’t they just move over about 10 feet?” If the mining path stopped 900-1200 feet less, it would save the well, surmised the family. The tree line where the mining path ends can be seen easily from the family residence. Several entities have taken an interest in this case due to its ramifications.
Motions for Leave to File Amicus (friend of the court) Briefs have been filed by the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Monroe County Farm Bureau and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, in support of the Datkuliaks.
In the motion filed by the Farm Bureaus, it reads: “Initially, the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Monroe County Farm Bureau feel it is important for this Court to understand the importance of this issue to rural Ohioans. There are approximately 63,000 active oil and gas wells in Ohio which in 2006 generated in excess of $125 million of royalties to landowners. Moreover, there are more than 4,100 landowners who actually own the wells on their property used to provide free natural gas to their homes, barns ... The revenue and free gas provided by these wells are significant to and relied upon by many rural families, particularly within Monroe and other economically struggling counties in Southeast Ohio. “By contrast, the mining of the one seam of coal owned by Appellees will not produce any royalties or other revenue to the landowners ... The importance of potential oil and gas production to the landowners was clearly reflected in the original severance deed ... from which the Appellees’ entire interest is derived – the landowner expressly reserved the right to do exactly what the trial court has now eliminated, namely the right to drill oil and gas through the severed seam of coal and to operate those wells ... The words “drill” and “operate” are significant. If the intent of the parties was to allow wells to be drilled, but to require those wells to be plugged a week, year or five years after the wells are drilled, there would have been no reason for the parties to expressly reserve the right to “operate” the wells ...” “If this ruling stands in its present form,” said Bud Rousen-berg, local oil and gas developer, “it could be detrimental to coal bearing counties like Monroe. This is not just some small decision. People are not aware of the ramifications for present and future oil and gas development in counties like Monroe. We certainly need any industry we can get in Monroe County. It was noted that Monroe County has led the state in oil and gas production for the last several years. “It is clear in the deed that the Datkuliaks have the property ownership and access to the gas well,” said Tom Stewart, executive vice-president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. “The coal company, led by Bob Murray, has taken that away from them. Murra] purports that by an Ohio statute initiated by the Coal Development Office that coal has a dominance over oil and gas,” said Stewart. “The only singular reason for the statute was to help the coal industry because Ohio coal is flawed. It is full of pollutants and the government was helping them out. It did not mean that a coal company can seize the man’s property,” continued Stewart. “I admire Mr. Datkuliak for standing up and defending his property rights against the coal company and in particular Bob Murray. My industry and the coal industry have managed to get along pretty well but this is a flagrant abuse of property rights!” Stewart said. Regardless of the outcome,” said Mike Datkuliak, “Dick [Yoss] and Jason [Yoss] have done a heck of a job.” A follow-up on the appellate decision will be published in the Beacon.


< First Baptist Church Woodsfield Celebrates 50 Years in Service

What do the Bible, cotton candy, classic car shows, free ice water and smoke alarm batteries have in common? They are all community service tools of Woodsfield First Baptist Church. Around town and in Monroe County, the church is known as the “church who does stuff for the community.”
Over Labor Day weekend, the church will celebrate 50 years of ministry to individuals and to the community. Affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, the work began in 1957 and continues today with a church that strives to be a place where people seeking to know about Jesus Christ can find hope, peace and eternal life.
Individuals at the church believe in something called “servant evangelism.” That simply means putting your faith into action by helping and loving others. Woodsfield First Baptist has worked in the community by providing children’s programs (like free block parties with free activities, cotton candy and hot dogs), a classic car show as part of the WHS Alumni Weekend, and they even went door-to-door distributing free batteries for smoke alarms – all to show others that love is more than a word – it means action.
Since 1979, the church has given free ice water to fairgoers at  the Monroe County Fair, a ministry that continues to this day. Other longstanding ministries include a free clothes closet, food pantry and popular children’s programs such as Vacation Bible School and Team Kid. The Solid Rock Youth Ministry averages 40 teens on Saturday nights.
The early church was known as “John’s Chapel” after the four men who started the work: John Lynn, an engineer at Ormet; John Snedden, a retired state secretary of West Virginia; John Ashcraft, lay minister and manager of Seneca Lake Baptist Assembly camp; and John Lehr, Superintendent of Pure Oil Company.
The first services were held on April 15, 1957, in the old storefront building on South Paul Street (originally the Scott Grant Restaurant). That day, there were 14 people in Sunday School and 16 in the worship service. But, because of the rapid growth, the group soon needed larger quarters, so they moved into the upper rooms above the Citizens Bank.
In 1961, the church was built on North Paul Street. Services in the new building were held in what is now the basement and in 1964, services began in the upper level of the building. The new church mortgage was paid off in 1978.
Records show that since 1980, Woodsfield First Baptist Church has given over $179,000 to help field missionaries in Ohio, across North America and around the globe.
“The mission of our church is still very much the same as 50 years ago because it stands on truths of the Bible that stand the test of time,” said Bruce Zimmer, Chairman of the Deacons. “However, we know that our methods to reach people as a church must be relevant and interactive in today’s changing and hectic world.”
Sunday morning
small groups meet at 9:30 a.m. for all ages and include encouragement and discussions on real life issues from a Biblical standpoint. Sunday morning worship is at 10:45 a.m. and includes traditional and contemporary music styles. A more contemporary Sunday evening worship is held at 6 p.m. featuring a live band. Wednesdays include Bible Study and youth and children’s activities in a high-energy, fun, food and fellowship style.
Join the anniversary celebration Sept. 1 at 4 pm for an old fashioned church picnic and ice cream social. Special services will also be held at 2 p.m. on Sept. 2 featuring previous ministers and guest from the Ohio State Convention of Baptists in Columbus as well as the burial of a time capsule.
To learn more about finding hope in the daily grind, please visit us at 114 N. Paul St. in Woodsfield. For more details, call 740-472-1941 or visit the website at www.woodsfieldfbc.com.

< Obituaries
(read the full obituary in the paper) 

<Geraldine Elizabeth “Jeri” Circosta, 86, Shadyside, died Aug. 14, 2007, in Shadyside Care Center. She was born Jan. 2, 1921, in Bellaire, the daughter of the late George J. and Agnes Graham Mitchell. Condolences may be expressed at www.altmeyer.com. NEVAEH ROSE MARKINS Nevaeh Rose Markins, infant daughter of Stacey Robbins and Timothy Markins of Woodsfield, died Aug. 17, 2007 at Marietta Memorial Hospital. Online condolences may be expressed at www.wattersfuneralhome.com

< Paul S. Weddle, 86, 38400 Straightfork Rd., Graysville, died Aug. 18, 2007, at Selby General Hospital, Marietta. He was born July 24, 1921, at Jericho, a son of the late William Arthur and Dorcas Lola Febus Weddle. Online condolences may be expressed at www.wattersfuneralhome.com.

< Raymond “Ray” C. Baldwin, 58, Andover Rd., Woodsfield, died Aug. 16, 2007, at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, after a courageous battle with declining health for several years. He was born Sept. 14, 1948 in Charleston, W.Va., a son of the late Theodore and Margaret Midkiff Baldwin. Online condolences may be expressed at www.wattersfuneralhome.com.

<Junior (Ward) Strickling, 76, Woodsfield, died Aug. 16, 2007 at Barnesville Hospital. He was born June 10, 1931 in Woodsfield, a son of the late Jesse Joshua Strickling and Emma Nevada McMullen Strickling. Online condolences may be expressed at www.bauerturner.com.

~ Procession Honors Strickling ~
Honoring former fire chief and deputy Ward Strickling, Woodsfield’s antique fire truck, draped in black, led a procession of fire and EMA vehicles, family and friends from Bauer-Turner Funeral Home to Oaklawn Cemetery, where final services were held. In addition to the antique fire truck and the county emergency management agency’s vehicle, fire trucks joined from Antioch, Lewisville, Sardis and two additional from Woodsfield. Fire and police personnel wore full dress uniform in honor of Strickling who served well his community and his country for many years.

<Around the Burnside

By Denny Easterling

Any story sounds true until someone sets the record straight. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with iron bars. One thing about writing a week ahead is you really never seem up to date. I understand the folks who have operated what was once the Skyvue stand are operating a new food stand at the fair this year. Perhaps you’ve discovered it. I think it was to be located near the Coulson building. I could be wrong but I think Alpine is involved some how. I understand they have a steak sandwich that makes a whopper look like a hamburger. I eat at food stands operated by local people, this is one. Only two more days of the fair, then two days of free time, and back to school.

I’ve been hearing some scary things about our school system of late. I’m not commenting now as most know what I think. I will say, until our school board and all of us living in our school district start thinking of what’s best for all our students we will continue as leading the tail end of school facilities and limited opportunity.

Well, now that I have that off my chest, to more pleasant things and what could be more pleasant and fun than a family reunion? Esther and I attended a family reunion, her side of the family, last Saturday. Rather than hold it at some park, beach or a funny place it was held in the basement of what we called the Grange Hall. It’s now the Pennyroyal Opera House, I think, and holds many, many memories for a number of us attending. Grange, movies for a quarter, home talent plays, Cowboy Loy, Shug Fisher, square dancing to mention a few. Now it has been repaired and remodeled and is home for Bluegrass Bands every month. Oh yes, the floor is one I’ve played marbles on days we couldn’t play outside as it is from our old school building. It is also the site of the 128th Pennyroyal Reunion. Many folks, when they think of family reunion, think of food. This is one thing you need not worry about. There is always plenty and always good eating. Everything tastes excellent, for the most part. Fun and visiting is the best part. We had folks from Tennessee, Maryland, attending as well as those of us scattered over Southeast Ohio.

After we stuffed ourselves, we had several quiz contests to find out “Who Was Smarter than a Fifth Grader.” I wasn’t. The exam sheets ranged from finding books of the Bible to flowers to what kind of food or cake you would feed certain people. For example, What kind of a cake would you bake for the devil? Most of us answered, Devils Food, which is wrong. The correct answer was Angel Food. I guess this is the correct answer but I doubt if the old boy would eat any of it. Another question was, What kind of a cake you would bake for a politician? I answered Stupid cake but I don’t guess there is this kind of a cake. I don’t remember the correct answer. I did win a pint of Tootsie Rolls by guessing there were 61 in the jar. An auction rounded out the activities. Folks bring something to hold a fun auction in order to have a little bankroll for next year’s reunion. There is always quite a variety of things. The auctioneer this year was from Maryland, or was it Delaware, who proved to be a tricky one. Move any thing and you bid. It was fun, however, I kept Esther from bidding until three potted mums came up for sale, we brought them home. It was fun and all enjoyed the auction even with the joking auctioneer, who was probably doing it for the first time and will probably be invited back next year. After things were pretty well cleaned up several of those from out of state took a walking tour of Fairview to relive some memories. I drove. Presbyterian Church, gone; Grandpa’s house, gone; the house where we lived, gone; Bond’s Store, gone; Sip & Bite, gone; school house, gone; and the list could go on and on. The barn where we stored hay occasionally was torn down and lay smoking, which should have been done long ago. The Church of Christ had taken on a new look with future improvements planned. Memories hang on. Several of us were invited to a cousin’s home for an evening meal, as if we needed one.

The meal included homemade ice cream, two freezers. You’ve heard the expression “A watched pot never boils.” I think this applied to an electric ice cream freezer. One took a while long. According to tradition, soon after arrival five of us went to the garden with a salt shaker hunting for a ripe tomato. Nothing beats picking a ripe tomato and eating it while in the patch. Our host is really an outstanding gardener. He even sets up a blinking light during the night so the deer can tell where his sweet corn is located. The meal, ice cream and visiting around the table was great but all good things must come to an end as we had to head home. We were baby sitting out son’s dog and she had been in the house since 10:30 am. and probably needed a walk outside. As we were leaving they were getting ready to get the cornhole game set up. I hated to leave because I really wanted to show them how to play the game. I guess there is really more to the game than I expected. You can really lose points under certain conditions. I don’t know what time the festivities broke up but I’ll bet they polished off the second freezer of ice cream before they went back to their hotel room.

A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman of the next generation.

The first essential for leadership is a group of dumb guys to follow you. Go to church Sunday? Why not? Bible readings: (Mon.) James 4:6-10; (Tues.) Psalm 103; (Wed.) Isaiah 12; From Zechariah (Thurs.) 1:1-6; (Fri.) 7:8-14; (Sat.) 8:1-8; (Sun.) 8:14-17.


< Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Once again Mr. Comstock continues to address the water contamination issue by referring to health concerns that he believes to be of more importance to the community. Apparently, driving in automobiles is his choice for this week. Is Comstock going to address the issue at hand, or is he going to continue to avoid it?

Because I am not one to “wait and see,” I contacted the Ohio EPA again (yes, again Mr. Comstock). In the next few months the residents of the village of Woodsfield will once again receive notification from the water department that we continue to be in violation of the maximum allowable contaminant of trihalomethane.

This time, however, our reading has increased from 83.3 ppb to 91 ppb, a reading which was verified by the Ohio EPA. Yes, I know that Mr. Comstock will say that we will be in violation because the level is a running total of the quarterly readings, and the 155.5 ppb reading that was submitted on Nov. 15, 2006 will not be removed until the upcoming quarter, when a new reading will be taken.

However, the Ohio EPA shed some light on how these readings are taken, and the way in which water departments around the state use these regulations against the EPA to obtain a favorable average. Under current EPA rules and regulations, a water treatment facility is required to submit test results at least quarterly. One would think that a quarterly reading is to be done every 90 days, but this is not the case.

The new law, requiring water departments to submit readings every 90 days, on the same four days each year will not take effect until 2012. In the meantime, water treatment facilities can submit readings at any time, as long as one reading is submitted quarterly. For example, according to the Ohio EPA, a facility can submit a reading on the last day of a quarter, and then again on the first day of the following quarter. It seems to me that this practice would alter the TRUE reading.

This is exactly why the Ohio EPA states that it is done, and why they are changing the regulations in 2012. According to the EPA, when a favorable reading is detected by the water treatment facility, it is usually followed by another reading so that more than one favorable reading can be submitted to them to lower the total contamination level. The following is a list of the dates and readings for the village of Woodsfield’s trihalomethane levels: Nov. 15, 2006 - 155.5 ppb, Feb. 26, 2007 - 59.41 ppb, May 9, 2007 - 67.69 ppb, June 28, 2007 - 74.21 ppb, July 2, 2007 - 79.51 ppb.

It seems to me that the last three readings look to be awfully close to one another. According to the Ohio EPA, we will not know our true readings until the new law takes effect in 2012. Until then, the above practice will continue in order to receive favorable readings. Those are not my words, but the words of the EPA.

Anyone wishing to contact the Ohio EPA to verify these practices, or the above readings may contact them at 614-644-2752. Mr. Comstock continues to state that there is no danger in consuming our water, yet the Ohio EPA states that little is known about the dangers because extensive tests have yet to be completed. Why is this I asked them? Because 40 years ago trihalomethane in drinking water was not an issue, and the long term effects will not be known until people have been consuming trihalomethane over a lifetime.

I urge everyone to thoroughly read the EPA letters they will be receiving from the utility office in the next few weeks. A panel of attorneys is used to comprise these letters, and many of the statements contained in the letter are used to limit liability. However, by contacting the EPA or visiting their website, it is abundantly clear that trihalomethane does more harm than good. In Comstock’s previous letter he leads people to believe that I insinuate that trihalomethanes are added to our water by village employees. That statement is completely absurd.

Anyone with access to a Webster’s dictionary knows that trihalomethane is a by-product of chlorination and results in ineffective chlorination of drinking water. He also states that over the next few years, depending on the readings, additional treatment processes may have to be added to our treatment plant. Millions of dollars in grant monies are available in the state of Ohio for such reasons.

Hopefully, we will be applying for these grants in the near future. In the meantime, as Mr. Comstock continues to brush the situation “under the rug,” it drives me to contact as many people as possible and learn as much as I can. Next week, as the “threat of alien invasion” is given as a more important health concern by Comstock, keep in mind that I am focused on the water contamination level and will continue to share my findings with the community. I understand that Mr. Comstock has superiors, and he is limited on what he is allowed to say in regards to the water. If he were to state tomorrow that he believes there is more to the trihalomethane in our water than what has previously been divulged, his job could be one on the line.

I do understand that all eyes are on him in regards to this situation, because he is in fact the superintendent of the water department. Anyone wishing to submit a sample of their tap water for independent analysis may contact Envirotek Laboratories Inc. toll free at 1-866-561-0423, or visit their website at: www.enviroteklab.com. Envirotek Labs is approved by the EPA for conducting these types of studies. Anyone wishing to share their stories or concerns in regards to the drinking water may do so by emailing me at: projectsafewater43793@yahoo.com.

Jeffrey Daniel Woodell, Woodsfield