WEST CHESTER (March 20) – State Senator Andy Dinniman said he was “very satisfied” by a recent court ruling affirming his legal right to stand up and fight for the residents of the New Garden Township area who are seeking to protect their drinking water.
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) Administrative Law Judges Cynthia Williams Fordham and Darlene Heep on March 13 approved Senator Dinniman’s standing as an official party of record in the upcoming proceedings on Artesian Water.
The ruling strikes down Artesian’s preliminary objections to numerous individuals, including Dinniman, who protested the company’s application to expand its service area and in turn take large amounts of water from the Broad Run Aquifer, used by many residents in the area for well water.
“It was satisfying that the judges recognized my right to do the job I was elected to do,” Dinniman said. “In my nine years as state Senator and 14 years as county commissioner, this is the first time that my right to represent my constituents has been challenged.”
Judges Fordham and Heep denied Artesian’s objections to Dinniman’s standing, ruling that Dinniman’s “participation in this matter relates to his official duties as a Senator for the affected district.”
Furthermore, in their ruling the judges cited Dinniman’s “involvement with several committees that address water issues,” his “personal knowledge of the subject matter and his “responsibility of commenting on or approving expenditures related to water resources in Chester County.”
Dinniman said he looks forward to the next steps in the case, including formal hearings and a public input hearing in the New Garden area.
“When it comes to matters of protecting our natural resources, I have a constitutional duty and a moral responsibility to represent my constituents and defend their interests. In fact, as state Senator I have participated in other PUC cases in the past, so I was confident that the objections wouldn’t fly,” Dinniman said. “Still, this is just more evidence of how far Artesian will go to try to squash discussion on this issue.”
This latest ruling also comes as the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) did not approve Artesian Water’s application for a new water withdraw permit at its hearings on March 10 and 11. Rather, the DRBC required that Artesian implement a groundwater/surface water monitoring program to confirm that there will be no adverse impacts on the Broad Run hydrologic system before going forward.
Artesian Water is seeking PUC approval to expand its public water service to several properties on Buttonwood, Broad Run and Newark roads in Landenberg, as well as nine other properties set for development.
Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection granted Artesian the temporary right to drill at the site of its well located at Broad Run and Newark roads in Landenberg – property it purchased from the Wilkinson family several years ago. In the spring, Artesian conducted a 72-hour aquifer test at the well site, extracting more than 600,000 gallons of water from the well at a rate of 200 gallons per minute, to determine its capacity.
Save Our Water, a group of residents concerned about the impact of a high-volume well on homes and business in New Garden, Franklin and the surrounding area that uses the aquifer, commissioned an independent review raising questions about the test’s validity.
The 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.
Dinniman added that the water company’s legal objections were just the latest ploy in what seems like an ongoing effort to undermine the public’s right to weigh in on the issue.
Artesian’s attorneys have filed objections to the standing of dozens of interveners, including the Save Our Water group. The judges recently denied the objections to Save Our Water’s standing too.