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Elizabeth town manager Hugh Burns shows a group gathered Tuesday morning, Sept. 10, the ditch problem nearing the town's water-well field near the Ohio River. Photo by Ross Schulz (click for larger version)

Town seeks funding for endangered well field


September 18, 2013 | 08:49 AM

Elizabeth Town Manager Hugh Burns gathered state officials and representatives last week to try to gain support for funding to help save the town's water-well field and aquifer along the Ohio River.

The well field, near the intersection of state roads 211 and 111, is one of the best in the region with an aquifer that produces water that is soft and clean enough to drink directly.

At least one of the wells, and possibly the entire aquifer, is in danger because of an ever-eroding ditch moving closer and closer to the well area.

Burns said the ditch was created more than 20 years ago by a re-route project conducted by the Indiana Dept. of Transportation to relieve flooding of S.R. 111. The ditch has since been slowly growing in size.

So, with the help of State Sen. Richard Young Jr., D-Milltown, Burns organized a meeting to detail the issue and ask for help.

Indiana Dept. of Transportation representative Becky Gross said INDOT "could help," although she couldn't say to what extent, whether it be funding or use of equipment.

"It's not a waste of time," she said of inviting state officials to Elizabeth.

Burns said he hopes something could be done by next spring.

Mel Milburn, an engineer based in Crestwood, Ky., whom Burns hired to come up with the most affordable solution to save the endangered well, said it would cost about $80,000 to $100,000 to construct a wall on the well side of the ditch to stop the erosion. It would not, however, as he and officials pointed out last week, stop the erosion problem all together. The ditch could still reach the well-supplying aquifer by continuing to erode the bottom of the ditch.

Surface water in the aquifer would be devastating, Burns said. The cost would be about $350,000 to fix it, he said.

Other than Elizabeth residents, the well also supplies Horseshoe Southern Indiana at nearby Bridgeport.

Burns said the problem was set to be addressed in 2007, with cooperation from INDOT, but, when he lost the clerk-treasurer town election, the project was cast aside and ignored.

The meeting, which also included Harrison County officials Ralph Sherman (councilman), Jim Klinstiver (commissioner) and Harold Klinstiver (surveyor), moved to the well site after a catered lunch.

Twitter: @rossschulz

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