City Council takes significant strides toward environmental protection
By Briagenn Adams, CG News
On Monday night Athens City Council met to discuss the formation of the City of Athens Environment and Sustainability Commission and discuss other environmental concerns.
Council member Chris Fahl introduced ordinance 0-60-12, establishing the City of Athens Environment and Sustainability Commission. Up until now, there has not been an official, city-affiliated environmental advocacy group present in Athens.
“This commission is a way of helping to move forward with many aspects concerning environment and sustainability in Athens, using the experience we have,” Fahl said.
Ed Baum, Athens resident and member of the comprehensive plan advisory committee, said that he was grateful the council has decided to move forward with the plan.
“We could not do it by ourselves, ” Baum said. He also said that he feels a group of people coming together with the specific responsibility of overseeing environmental regulations and concerns in Athens is very appropriate for the area.
Furthering the discussion of environmental protection, resolution R-06-12 was proposed and passed by all council members.
The resolution requested that Wayne National Forest conduct an environmental impact statement prior to releasing any land located within the Wayne National Forest to the Bureau of Land Management for oil and gas leasing.
The previous 2006 Wayne National Forest plan did not address issues created by horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing, both of which effect water and air quality, human health, local economies and social wellbeing.
At-large Rep. Steve Patterson spoke briefly on the exact nature of hydraulic fracturing, and its potential pollutant conductivity.
“Our aquifer is very fragile. It can absorb any type of liquid, from rain water to hazardous pollutants,” Patterson said. He added that the Hocking Valley aquifer has been rated as a 9/10 on conductivity scale, meaning it is highly susceptible to contaminants.
Chris Knisely, at-large representative, added that Athens county is 79 percent forested land.
“Wayne Forest has a critical impact on this region and water quality,” Knisely said.
The council also passed an ordinance to update the Wellhead Protection Plan, a program the Council developed in 2005 that aims to improve Athens’ drinking water quality, with the objective of improving the protection methods of the city’s water supply.