As your February 27 paper makes clear, the aquifer storm troopers are marching again in Castle Valley. It’s an old tradition here. Scream “Danger to the Aquifer” and everyone is expected to stop thinking, grab their pump handles and join a vigilante group to save the aquifer.
But the storm trooper arguments are all wet.
Castle Valley’s aquifer is not classified as “pristine”. Nearly half the people in Castle Valley treat their well water or don’t use it at all for drinking because of its high mineral content. There is pristine water in the valley, but very little of it is under the town.
Contamination from a car repair shop is a very remote threat. To the extent that the Castle Valley aquifer has been studied, research suggests that water percolating from the surface is only a small percentage of what feeds the Castle Valley aquifer. Over 90 percent of the aquifer water comes from streams from the La Sal Mountains.
Experts also believe that the recharge rate of the aquifer is fairly robust (more like a stream, not a lake), so that contaminants are likely to pass through quickly. All this is consistent with the water monitoring that the Town has been conducting for a number of years, which is showing a healthy situation.
And if, of course, the Town were seriously concerned about contamination from surface activities, they wouldn’t pick on one business. They would need to address far more widespread –and potentially harmful—activities like animal husbandry, agricultural chemicals, detergents, etc.
That all said, I personally support banning businesses like car repair shops and the other businesses listed in the proposed amendment to the Castle Valley land use ordinance. To me, it is a zoning issue concerning the character of the residential community we want to be. To my mind, that justification at least holds water.