Commission extends deadline for public comment on Artesian plans in New Garden
● By Richard Gaw
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has extended its deadline for public comment on the request by Artesian Water Pennsylvania, Inc. to begin supplying water service to several properties owned by the Wilkinson family in the vicinity of Buttonwood, Broad Run and Newark roads in Landenberg, including nine properties filed by local developer Charles Wilkinson.
The application was filed on Nov. 3. by Brian C. Wauhop of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, PC, on behalf of Artesian.
These properties are all located adjacent to Artesian's existing well -- commonly known as "The Broad Run Well" – which is near the corner of Newark Road and Broad Run Road. Artesian purchased the property from the Wilkinson family several years ago. Artesian, the application stated, expects to obtain governmental permits to operate the well by 2015.
In a Nov. 24 letter to Wauhop, Rosemary Chiavetta, secretary for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), authorized an extension for public comment period by an additional 15 days from the date the extension will appear in the Dec. 6 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin to Dec. 22. Originally, the public comment period was set at Dec. 1.
The decision by the PUC to extend the deadline, as referenced in Chiavetta's letter, was influenced by a Nov. 24 letter by Sen. Andy Dinniman to Commissioner Robert F. Powelson, PUC chairman, which requested that the extension on public comment be granted. In his letter, Dinniman said that New Garden Township residents deserve ・ample opportunity・ to submit public comment on Artesian's application to expand its water service.
"I have heard from numerous residents, as well as those in the agricultural and industrial sectors, who are deeply concerned about the project's potential impact on their water supply,・ Dinniman wrote. ・Many residents were unaware that such an application was even submitted until it was reported in the press last week. Given the delay in this application coming to light and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I strongly encourage the extension of public comment period on this application so that every affected resident has a chance to weigh in.・
In his letter, Dinniman also said that it was ・unreasonable and unfair・ for public comment period to elapse on the same day that Artesian will be making a presentation before township supervisors and local residents that company officials said recently will give details on the company's future in Chester County, based on the results of an aquifer test that was conducted this past spring at the company's well on Broad Run Road and Newark Road in Landenberg. During the 72-hour test, 600,000 gallons of water were extracted from the well, at a rate of 200 gallons per minute. Artesian's Dec. 1 presentation will be held at the Avondale Fire Company, beginning at 7 p.m.
"After all, how are residents expected to make relevant and informed comments on this all-important project without seeing the results of aquifer test or hearing directly from the company?・ Dinniman wrote.
Just days before, Dinniman issued a release saying that he planned to petition the PUC to extend the public comment period.
This is not the first time Dinniman has shared his opinions on the topic of Artesian's presence in New Garden Township. Earlier this year, in a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), he registered his opposition to the DEP's decision to grant Artesian the permission to conduct the aquifer test.
"The supervisors and residents have raised numerous, legitimate reasons why Artesian Resources' request should have been denied, and I know they shared them with you," Dinniman wrote.
He then followed with a checklist of those concerns, which included that the proposed water withdrawal is inconsistent with New Garden Township's zoning laws; that the water withdrawal would jeopardize the drinking water supplies of local residents; and that the water Artesian planned to extract should be used to support existing homes and future development in New Garden Township and Pennsylvania.
On Oct. 13, Dinniman spoke to a packed house of concerned residents at the New Garden Township Building. In an hour-long conversation, he urged residents to continue their fight against the water company.
"Companies like Artesian are global entities and small towns like Landenberg are only a "speck on their map," and that it will be important for citizens to "stand up," not only against Artesian, but to the many regulatory agencies that govern the use and distribution of water throughout Pennsylvania," he told the audience.
"What's happening more and more is that these regulatory agencies are assuming that they have power to do everything, and they are actually taking over many of the powers that justifiably belong on the local level, especially when it comes to local zoning laws," Dinniman said. "Those who want profits do not see the green of trees and open space or agriculture. They see the green of money, so we who value our property and see the green of our open spaces need to show them that we are tough."
Formal protests and petitions to intervene on the Artesian application must be filed in accordance with Title 52 of the Pa. Code, on or before Dec. 22. All filings must be made with the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, P.O. Box 3265, Harrisburg, Pa., 17105-3265.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail email@example.com .