Letter to editor stock photo — pen to paper

The article on gravel mining in the Jordan Independent two weeks ago only told half of the story. The other half — here in Sand Creek Township — is that any proposed mining along Valley View Drive threatens the water we drink.

We know, from Scott County’s own description, that the area along Valley View Drive is not like most other places because when the glaciers retreated some 10,000 years ago, they left a virtual “bare spot” here with next to nothing left to cover the water table.

Our geology in this spot means that there is an unusually thin layer of sand and soil covering our groundwater. In other areas that have a thicker and more typical layer, surface runoff and even septic tank effluent gets purified by the soil it trickles through on its way to the groundwater. But not here. Runoff of any kind takes days — not even weeks — it takes only days before it’s in the groundwater we drink. Not long enough to filter what it takes other sites months to do.

If there are any plans to remove any of the surface soils or gravel from the site in question, the project would be down into the water table with just a few scoops of the digger. And that’s not good because Sand Creek is just nearby and it floods every year into the area where the hole would be dug. So, digging there is in fact tantamount to installing a permanent funnel into the groundwater. Sand Creek is an “impaired” waterway and it carries with it the agricultural and industrial products from its trip downstream. These contaminants include fecal material. They include many chemicals that are harmful to humans.

Not only should mining continue to be prohibited in this location but a new history of other proposed industrial activity must not be allowed to begin there, either, for the very same reasons: runoff and contamination.

Sure. All of the plans to isolate the hole probably do sound great at the onset but this hole would be permanent — scraped open until the next ice age — and a lot can happen way before then. People walk away when gravel is gone and businesses are closed but the hole would remain and the groundwater would be there, filling up with what flows down into it from Sand Creek and from whatever is running off the surfaces surrounding any industrial use planned for the site. Oh, the best laid plans of mice and men.

A gallon of gravel is not worth a gallon of clean water. A pound of gravel is not worth our loss. Gravel is out and gone in a moment but what remains for the groundwater in Sand Creek Township would be a critical issue forever. All of Scott County gets its drinking water from this aquifer so why tempt the devil and open it up to trouble?

Short-term thinking is what brought us disasters like Flint, Michigan and even closer to home, the water contamination in the east metro, which has cost hundreds of millions of dollars to deal with.

We don’t have to kick this hornets’ nest. We must admit when our water source is just a few scoops away from contamination. A pound of gravel is not worth a hill of beans if we can’t safely open our faucet to fill a glass or a bath or a trough. The soils here are not thick enough to allow industrial activity to begin just feet above our water, so close to the aquifer.

It’s too bad but certain “development” is a no-go and this proposal is a prime example where benefit to one property owner could be a risk to all the others. We must recognize the writing on the wall and realize that this spot is just too fragile to puncture and any industrial activity here is an unnecessary gamble with our precious water. You cannot clean an aquifer.

Peggy Jo Dunnette lives in Sand Creek Township.

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