What is the sound of an empty well?
We Americans have always been at our best when we stand up to forces seemingly stronger than us, when we activate our constitutional right to assemble, and do so in the name of what we believe is right.
We are a nation of letter writers, noisy marchers and determined protestors who tap our keyboards and make phone calls and write e-mails in the name of reform and change. American history has demonstrated that these constitutional rights are as carved into our foundation as the figures in the rocky crevices of Mt. Rushmore.
Close to home, nearly 200 residents of Somerset Lake in Landenberg formed a citizens group called Friends of New Garden and, armed with a cause and very little money, fought and won twice in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, that ruled the decision by the New Garden Board of Supervisors to grant the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust a condominium waiver on the planned White Clay Point development was a violation of the law.
Now, many residents in New Garden Township have embarked on another grassroots cause that may impact the future of water resources to as many as 5,000 local citizens whose homes have wells. On Dec. 5, several hundred New Garden residents got letters from Delaware-based Artesian Resources, informing them that the company is planning to conduct a 72-hour aquifer test on its Broad Run Well No. 1, near the intersection of Newark Road and Broad Run Road. The test, they said, will take place sometime in the first quarter of 2014 and involve the extraction of 200 gallons of water per minute. That is nearly 220,000 gallons of water a day.
In a letter to Artesian, township solicitor Vincent Pompo said that the plan to conduct these tests is full of holes; expressly, that the township has no record of any subdivison approval regarding the acquisition of the property, and that no record of any land development or zoning approval for the development of the well exists in the township's records.
Together with that opposition, township residents have circulated a petition to more than 900 residences, asking homeowners to sign their names against this testing. So far, more than 100 have signed.
As the warmer weather arrives and the signatures increase, it is expected that the issue of water extraction at the Broad Run Well by Artesian will become the most controversial issue in the township. Whether or not Artesian succeeds will depend, in part, on their ability to properly conduct the test, and their appeal to higher government and conservation authorities, such as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission.
Within the next few months, whether or not they are aware, Artesian will get broadsided by a swarming beehive of protest, led by hundreds of local residents who want their voices to be heard.