> Bottle Water/Public Water Jurisdiction Controversy

PostCard front of water kiosk https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1844

This article was written by the owner and designer of scenic seven creeks roadside spring and is based mostly on first and a little on second hand information from the beginning of the roadside spring origin in 1997 until today. The article describes the hurdles and lack of help from local government organizations for a new type of small business which is a threat to large established businesses with political influence. Included are references to letters and newspaper articles that are stored on the roadside spring website. https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1844

Originally named Seven Creeks Roadside Spring after the name of the hollow and road the spring is located on, the name was changed to scenic7creeks due to confusion with the adjacent skiing resort Seven Springs. 

Scenic7creeks roadside spring, located at 939 Seven Creeks Road, Island Creek Township, Ohio, is the first self serve, automated, coin operated, roadside spring in the United States of America to be licensed as both a bottled water facility and public water system. The spring requested certification of the spring from the Department of Agriculture Food Safety Division as a bottle water license after phone calls to the Ohio EPA said roadside springs were not under their jurisdiction . The Department of Agriculture Food Safety Divsion issued a letter asking the Ohio EPA to certify the spring. https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1751 The Ohio EPA performed water testing in 1997 and certified the spring water. https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1755

Construction of the roadside spring holding tanks, supply lines and water kiosk where water was dispensed was started in 1997 and completed in 1998. The Ohio Department of Agriculture, under Doc Stewart’s supervision, issued the roadside spring a bottled water licensed in May 1998. The water was tested monthly for bacteria and yearly for water contaminants without any violations. People used the self serve, 24 hour, fully automated, coin operated water kiosk with the bottle water license to fill their own one to seven gallon jugs with purified spring water until 2004. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Wheeling Intelligencer, and Steubenville Herald Star posted articles about the spring. https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1758

In 2004, after six years, the Department of Agriculture Food Safety Division, under different management, changed its minds and decided that since people filled their own jugs, the spring could no longer be licensed as a bottled water facility unless the water was bottled for the customers and the automated self serve feature removed. At that time, the Ohio EPA, which originally in 1997, tested the water and said the spring had be operated as a bottled water facility, changed its mind and issued a public water license for the spring. The Ohio EPA performed a drinking water source assessment #4102112 which concluded “database did not reveal any evidence of chemical contamination at levels of concern in the acquirer” in Dec 2005 https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1825 . From 2004 to 2008 the spring was operated as a public water system, however, the Ohio EPA , required the spring to add chlorine and fluoride to the water. The Ohio EPA had no standards or requirements for small roadside springs, so they instead used the requirements for large public water systems, which were oversized and would require 24 hour onsite personnel and were not practical for a small  roadside spring. As a result the license was not renewed in 2008.

The spring water is now sold with no government license with the disclaimer ”Roadside springs cannot be licensed for human consumption.” People continue to use the self serve, 24 hour, fully automated, unlicensed, coin operated, water kiosk to fill their own one to seven gallon jugs with purified spring water and enjoy the adjacent pristine stream and scenic wooded visitor trails which are opened to the public at certain times. Also added as an attraction to the spring is a 15 feet long, 2 feet diameter, one ton white ash log, made into a rotating, good luck totem pole, with its many good luck charms, located underneath the adjacent concrete tree cabin. Visitors spring the totem pole for good luck and if they want can attach their own good luck charms.


Bottle water, especially spring water, had just become popular in the 90’s and it was felt that people would be willing to travel 3/4 of a mile on a very scenic gravel road to fill their own jugs themselves with pristine spring water that every one who used it said it was the best water ever tasted. Being that people reuse their own jugs also meant that it would be cheaper and help reduce the plastic bottles needing to be disposed of, a win for the environment and help win regulator approval.


In 1997 scenic7creeks was directed by the Ohio EPA to contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture Food Safety Division to obtain a bottle water license in order to operate the spring. The fella in charge at that time was Doc Stewart, a crusty character, but was interested in promoting anything that would help businesses in Ohio, a person with true grit. It took a year to complete construction and phone calls to Doc Stewart to discuss the design of the system were always confrontational. He did not mince words and felt whatever was being built would not be adequate. Well in May 27, 1998, just before everything was completed, he scheduled a meeting at the spring to see what was built thus far. His main mission was to inspect the Steubenville public water treatment plant to resolve problems there, and was including a stop at the spring, along the way, to save him a trip in the future. The inspector who accompanied him forwarned us that he probably was not going to approve a license for the spring. It had rained recently and the banks were muddy. At that time there was a wooden bridge over the creek to hold the pipes providing the spring water to the kiosk and was used to cross the creek.  The first thing he wanted to see was the source of the spring so he had to cross the bridge to the Big Rock, a 70 ton sandstone rock from under which the water flowed and was sealed with a brick wall and stainless locked door. Since there were not steps up the bank yet, it was quite a sight with he and his inspector trying to make it up the muddy bank with slippery dress shoes. They finally made it, albeit with a little mud on their pants. We unlocked and opened the door under the Big Rock and he looked in said nothing. Back to the water kiosk he looked at the equipment installed thus far, bout 95% done.  He asked a few questions about the design, turned to the inspector and said “Give them their license” and turned to us and smiled and said it was a good design and commented how pretty the setting was. He was tough, but fair, and it became apparent that his gruffness was the way of getting rid of those who did not know what needed to be done. He was contacted by phone a few times afterwards and was always helpful.  He died a few years later.


Scenic7creeks could reapply for the  same bottle water license that was issued from 1998 to 2004 if the water was bottled by scenic7creeks and not self serve. Unfortunately ozone or O3 has to be put into the water to disinfect the inside of the bottle. All bottle water in the USA requires this. The only country at that time not requiring ozone was Australia. The problem is that ozone, just like chlorine, is a powerful oxidizer and disinfectant only it is about 2000 times stronger. When it is done oxidizing and killing all germs it eventually breaks down into oxygen which is in the air we breath and is safe. The problem is that not only does it kill germs but it also forms disinfection byproducts with minerals and other substances in the water or the plastic the bottle is made from which can be harmful just as the chlorine disinfection byproducts have which were found by accident to be harmful and are now regulated. Although ozone disinfection byproducts can also be harmful, the government does not regulate them yet just as they did not regulate chlorine disinfection byproducts for many many years until someone did a an accidental study exposing the harmful byproducts of chlorine. Until there is more research, scenic7creeks will not be taking any chances by adding ozone which may add harmful disinfection byproducts to the pristine spring water.


The controversy began In 2004, when the bottle license, after operating 6 years under the Department of Agriculture Food Safety Division was revoked and the spring was assigned as a public water system under the Ohio EPA. The Ohio regulators knew the roadside spring  could not meet the Ohio EPA nrequirements because there were no requirements for small roadside springs and is the reason the spring was initially licensed as a bottle water facility because the Ohio EPA said it was not in their jurisdiction. When the Oho EPA inspector visited the spring the first thing he said was “close it down” so it was obvious from the getgo that the Ohio EPA was not interested in a viable solution for operating the roadside spring. This was confirmed when the designer, also one of the owners of the spring, contacted the federal EPA to discuss the situation. The federal EPA regulator agreed to discuss the situation only if he would be kept anonymous since he could only speak to the Ohio EPA directly not the owners of the spring. He did agree that there was no federal EPA regulations for roadside springs, however the state could request an exception to the EPA rules since they obviously did not apply here and the spring had operated for 6 years without any problems with state bottle water license. The Ohio EPA did not pursue any exception from the Federal EPA.

During 2004 letters were written to Govenor Taft https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1772 and one representative and one senator of Ohio and the Ohio EPA Attorney (who never responded) https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1764 for help. Between 2004 and 2008 one meeting was held in Columbus with the Ohio EPA and governor’s aide and discussions were held with local politicians. During 2008 two letters discussing the situation and asking for help were written to Governor Strickland and the state senator and representative, the first Feb 13, 2008 https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1794 , and the second March 23, 2008 https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1785 . The Steubenville Herald Star https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1776 and the Columbus Dispatch https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1780 both published articles about the situation. 

In March 2008 a meeting, advertised by the Ohio EPA as a solution to the problem,  was held in Steubenville, Ohio with the Ohio EPA, Ohio Agriculture Department Food Safety Division, Jefferson County Health Department and Scenic Seven Creeks Roadside spring representatives.

The only solution the Ohio EPA had was to shut the spring down, but were informed by scenic seven creeks roadside spring, the Ohio EPA license, which cost $900 a year, which had expired, was not being renewed. The Ohio EPA was unaware that the license had not been renewed three months earlier, provided no constructive response and left the meeting without any resolution. The Ohio EPA did respond later with a “deactivation” letter https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1810 and inspected the spring one last time.

Since 2008 the roadside spring has been operating without any license from the state of Ohio. Water customers are notified by a posting at the water kiosk that roadside springs can not be licensed as a public water system.

The Steubenville Herald Star and the Columbus Dispatch articles about the situation, never did question why the spring could no longer be operated with a bottle water license. Why was people filling their own jugs all of a sudden no longer acceptable after operating for four years? It so happens that a person familiar with the Department of Agriculture Food Safety Division did contact one of the owners of the spring and said that the reason the bottle water license was revoked was because a state legislator who had a bottle water facility in Columbus, Ohio was afraid that farmers in Ohio could do what was done at scenic7seven creeks roadside spring and license their roadside springs for people to fill their own jugs, hurting his bottle water facility demand, so he influenced management at the Department of Agriculture Food Safety Division to revoke the bottle water license.

Honesty Food for the Soul https://seven-creeks.com/?page_id=1860

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