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Dinniman: DRBC Delays Decision on Artesian Well Based on Citizens’ Concerns
WEST CHESTER (September 17) – The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) yesterday voted to again delay its decision on Artesian Water Company’s application to withdraw water from the Broad Run Aquifer, based on the concerns of state Senator Andy Dinniman and dozens of local residents about the project’s potential impact on local wells.
The DRBC, a regional body governed by five commissioners, each representing Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York and the federal government, has already deferred any decision on the application twice due to objections raised by Dinniman and his constituents.
Its next opportunity to vote on the matter will be at its public hearing and business meeting in December.
“This is a clear indication that Chester County residents will be heard and that our citizens will have a say when it comes to protecting, preserving and safeguarding their natural resources,” Dinniman said. “Chester County has a long tradition of defending the environmental ethic. If we hadn’t stood up, spoken up and made a strong case this would have been a done deal. Now, we have three months to work to ensure that all of the latest research, studies and alternative methods and proposals receive due diligence in any final decision.”
Dinniman also praised the work of Dr. Denis Newbold of Stroud Water Research and Jan Bowers, Executive Director of of the Chester County Water Resources Authority in raising salient points in questioning the science and methods behind Artesian’s March-April 2014 aquifer test, as well as the April 8, 2015 “Monitoring Plan for Broad Run” it prepared at DRBC’s request.
“In addition to citizens who are eloquent and ardent in defending their water rights, Chester County is home to some of the best minds in environmental, ecological and hydrological research,” he said.
The latest move comes after Dinniman, local township officials, representatives from regional environmental organizations and members of Save Our Water, a group of residents concerned about the impact of a high-volume well on homes and businesses in New Garden, London Grove, Franklin, London Britain and the surrounding area, made public comments raising serious and significant concerns about the project at the DRBC’s public hearing in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday.
In addition, last week Dinniman convened an informal meeting with DRBC officials in Avondale during which many in the standing-room only crowd made impassioned calls for the commission to reconsider the project and reexamine its water testing, monitoring and public input protocols.
Some of points raised by those in attendance included:
- Questioning the scope and validity of last spring’s aquifer test given the limited sample size, wet weather and reports of bias in recording results.
- Challenging the effectiveness of Artesian’s monitoring plan, especially the lack of both a downstream monitoring location on the Broad Run and clear safeguards to prevent excessive depletion.
- Questioning the exact amount of water Artesian needs. The company currently serves 38 homes in the New Garden area, but states that an estimated 200 customers are expected to live on nearby parcels slated for development. However, no homes are under construction and no building permits have been submitted to the township.
- Questioning the lack of local approval from New Garden Township. Artesian has not obtained zoning approval or exceptions to operate commercial well on land that is zoned for residential purpose.
Artesian Water, a Delaware-based company, is seeking approval to withdraw as much as 288,000 gallons of water per day, at a rate of 200 gallons per minute, and over 100 million gallons projected over the course of one year from the aquifer.
The proposed new service area goes right up to the state line, raising residents’ concerns that Artesian is positioning itself to pump Pennsylvania water to its tens of thousands of customers in Delaware – something the company has expressed interest in doing in the past.
First, Artesian must clear two hurdles: a water withdraw permit from the DRBC to actually take the water out of the ground and franchise approval from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to expand its service area.
The PUC is continuing to resolve preliminary objections and has yet to rule on the matter. However, commissioners have assured Dinniman that they too plan to hold a public input hearing in the New Garden area before doing so.
On Thursday, Dinniman vowed to continue to fight the issue on both fronts, while thanking the DRBC for being attentive to citizens’ concerns in its latest decision.
“I appreciate the members and the staff of the DRBC taking the time for another, closer look at this proposal and responding to our concerns and those of many residents and business owners in the area,” he said. “We now have an opportunity to be part of a larger discussion on this issue involving water rights and the commercial use of the Commonwealth’s natural resources, which under the Pennsylvania constitution are the property of all Pennsylvanians including generations to come.”
“This project is not just about residential wells; it also could affect the local environment, stream ecology, small businesses and agriculture in what remains one of the last rural bastions of open space in our county,” he added. “I encourage impacted residents to continue to follow the plan and submit comments to the DRBC as new details emerge.”
Tagged with: Senator Andy Dinniman