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Hill secures $200,000 to protect S. Harrison well on Ohio River

Hill secures $200,000 to protect  S. Harrison well on Ohio River
Hill secures $200,000 to protect  S. Harrison well on Ohio River
South Harrison Water Corp. Executive Director Bruce Cunningham, left, shows Indiana Ninth District Congressman Baron Hill last week a long list of present and future regulations imposed on small utility companies. (Photo by Randy West)

The South Harrison Water Corp. leaders personally thanked Indiana Ninth District Congressman Baron Hill, D-Seymour, last week for his help in getting $200,000 in federal funds to resolve an old erosion problem at one of the utility’s two wells on the Ohio River near Laconia.
Hill obtained the money, with help from Indiana Sens. Evan Bayh and Dick Lugar, that will be used to protect water quality from one of South Harrison’s wells near historic Cedar Farm.
South Harrison Water’s executive director, Bruce Cunningham, said his board has feared potential water contamination ever since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raised the level of the Ohio River back in the ’70s, which caused water to surround the wellhead when the river was running high. The issue became critical in the flood of 1997, when ‘we lost a big chunk of riverbank,’ Cunningham said. ‘It caved in, away from our well, but it gets a little worse every year.’
Normally, the river is 50 or 60 feet away from the well.
Two years ago the board decided that something had to be done to protect the integrity of the pipes that bring the drinking water from the prehistoric glacial aquifer far below the Ohio River. Corps officials said they couldn’t be of any assistance, engineering or funds or otherwise, due to budget cuts at that time.
Replacing one of the wells could easily cost $1 million, Cunningham said. South Harrison’s first well, a Ranney radial collector well, was sunk in the early 1960s and was, at first, privately owned.
The water company was formed in 1972, and four years later, a ‘gravel pack’ well was sunk.
When the erosion problem became critical a couple of years ago, South Harrison contacted State Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown, who suggested that they contact Hill and Bayh because it would be a federal project under Corps (federal) jurisdiction. Hill said last week that he worked closely with Bayh, a Democrat, and Lugar, a Republican, to get the $200,000 put in the 2004 federal budget. ‘Richard Young got the ball rolling initially for us,’ Cunningham said.
South Harrison had an engineering study done. The bank where the well is located will be stabilized this summer with about 7,000 tons of rip-rap around the well, if the Corps gives the project its approval.
‘Hill’s office was instrumental in getting these funds earmarked in the federal ’04 budget,’ Cunningham said. ‘I don’t think it would have happened without him.’
The water quality was never affected, Cunningham said. The source of South Harrison’s water is 100 feet below the river in an aquifer that consists of sand, gravel and water left from glacial times.
South Harrison pumps an average of 750,000 gallons a day and has 2,850 meters on its system.
Cunningham is vice president of an organization called The Alliance of Indiana Rural Water. Its membership numbers 450 small town and rural utilities. The Alliance gave South Harrison technical assistance with its efforts to protect the safety of its water supply.