MOUNT VERNON — A forum on environmental issues was sponsored Tuesday night by the Knox County Democratic Women’s Club. The forum, held at the Educational Service Center, focused on the present and future state of the environment in Knox County.
Siobhan Fennessy, an associate professor of biology at Kenyon College and co-director of the Brown Family Environmental Center, moderated the discussion. This was the third in a series of forums sponsored by the DWC.
The forum panel included Brian Benick of the Knox County Health Department, David Celebrezze of the Ohio Environmental Council, Ashley Lester of Mid-Ohio Planning Commission, Martha McDonald a local organic farmer, Ray Heithaus co-director of the Brown Family Environmental Center, Linda Montgomery Knox County director of recycling and Rob Clendenning of the Knox Soil & Water Conservation District.
After introducing themselves and giving a short synopsis of their interests, the panel took questions from the audience.
Many different topics were discussed, most of which centered around air and water quality, recycling, preservation of open spaces and organic farming and farming practices.
One of the first questions posed to Montgomery was why there was no curbside recycling in Apple Valley and how could that be brought in.
“Basically it’s if they can make money,” she said. “They can’t make money off of recycling because of the transportation costs.”
Another recycling question centered on why recyclables had to be sorted if all the separated items were dumped into one bin on the truck. Montgomery said this was only done in Mount Vernon. The recyclers combined all items and sold them to a recycler that sorted the items by hand. Gambier and the county sold recyclable materials sorted and were able to get more money for it.
Another Apple Valley question centered on the quality of the water in Apple Valley Lake.
“The quality of the water in the lake is marvelous,” Benick replied. “There was some concern about it a few years ago when there was a sewer line break in the lake.”
Benick said Apple Valley officials tried to take their own sample of the water which tested high in bacteria. Benick explained the sampling method was faulty and when he took a sample in the correct manner the readings were fine.
Lester touched on questions about the air quality in Knox County compared to metropolitan areas like Columbus and Cleveland.
“The air quality in Columbus is much worse than it is here,” she said. “You have the convergence of several major highways there which is contributing factor.”
She noted her agency, the Mid-Ohio Planning Commission, is the agency responsible for issuing air quality alerts for the state.
“The problem with air is that it moves,” she noted. “So lower quality air will move here eventually.”
The possibility of a passenger rail system in Ohio was brought up. Lester and Celebrezze both said their agencies were in favor of it.
“Some of the holdup in pushing that through might be from the petroleum industry,” Lester said. “A rail system would mean less fuel being used.”
But both agreed it would be a good thing because it would be a more efficient way of moving people while polluting less.
Farm markets also came up with one questioner wondering what had become of the plan to have a centralized, year-round market.
Benick said several options had been explored.
“The Buckeye Candy Building was looked at but was not a practical location,” he said. “They looked at the old New Hope building on Newark Road and they realized the doors weren’t big enough to get equipment in the building. The last I heard they were looking at the old high school in Fredericktown.”
Clendenning was also asked about the quality of the ground water in Knox County.
“We are blessed to have great ground water in Knox County,’ he said. “The aquifer that provides water is replenished by an annual rainfall of about 38 to 40 inches a year. I think if you look at records for private wells in the county over the last few decades you will not see much variation in their levels.”
Fennessy thanked the panel members for attending and many stayed afterwards to talk with some of those attending and answered more questions.