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Chester County Press

Alternate study conflicts with Artesian's well analysis

12/17/2014 11:08AM ● By Richard Gaw
Since it was formed about a year ago, the Save Our Water Committee, a citizens group opposed to the activation of a well on Broad Run Road in Landenberg by Artesian Water Pennsylvania, Inc., a division of Artesian Water Resources, has spent the better part of a year informing citizens and legislators about their claim that there would not be enough water in the well to withstand a substantial drought. On Monday night at the New Garden Board of Supervisors meeting, the committee shared the results of a report that supports their claim.

Representing the committee, Dave Yake delivered the results of a report done by Brickhouse Environmental on the Broad Run well, which claims that the Artesian hydrogeologic report prepared in August that supports the belief that the 288,000 gallons of water the company said can be drawn from the well per day without impact to neighboring wells or wetlands – is false.

The Save Our Water Committee's report comes on the heels of a recent public meeting, when John Thaeder, senior vice president of operations for Artesian, told a town hall audience on Dec. 1 that the company's data on the well shows there is not expected to be any significant detrimental impact on the stream base flow.

"In summary, the production of 200 gallons per minute from the Broad Run Production well will have no significant impact on basin water resources, stream flow in Broad Run and existing domestic wells in New Garden Township," Artesian's report stated.

Referring to a synopsis of the report on a nearby projector screen, Yake said that Brickhouse's study, using the well test data supplied in the Artesian report, disputes Artesian's claim that there is plenty of water to go around. Brickhouse Environmental was hired by the Save Our Water Committee to conduct the report.

"It does not support that. In fact, it supports just the opposite," Yake said. "The [Brickhouse Environmental] data does not support the claim that the [well's] aquifer is confined with no influence on the local stream. The well's water table aquifer will have an impact on nearby streams and wells."

The real answers to water supply in the vicinity of the Broad Run well are found in the rocks, particularly the Cockeysville Marble Foundation, the Brickhouse report said. While it agreed that the Broad Run well is capable of producing 288,000 gallons per day, Brickhouse disputed Artesian's claim that it can pump that much water every day from the well for up to two years without the benefit of any ground water recharge while preventing unacceptable decreases in water levels.

"Regular ongoing periods of recharge in excess of the volume proposed for removal are required to maintain the existing water balance," the report said. "Further, the unique geologic characteristics of the Broad Run Creek Watershed complicate the analysis. The extent of the Cockeysville Formation is limited in extent within the watershed, and all of the precipitation recharging the aquifer may not be available to the area of production well based on the fact that other studies of pumping water from the Cockeysville have shown that ground water does not readily migrate horizontally across the contacts between the Cockeysville and the adjacent non-carbonate rocks in the watershed."

Yake also said that the results of a test conducted this spring by Artesian that explored the feasibility of the well to distribute water were skewed by the fact that it was done at a time when there is high ground water saturation. Further analyzing supply and need, Yake said that the 288,000 gallons of water that Artesian plans to have the potential to draw from the well every day is more than the 'Q710 safe level' of 238,000 gallons per day, or 165 gallons per minute.

He also said that the Artesian report implies that there is so much water flowing through the White Clay Creek Watershed that it lends itself to "serious business options" for Artesian, options that position the company to draw even more water from the well in the future. Yake disputed the need for Artesian to have access to 288,000 gallons of water per day from the Broad Run Well, given that it only serves 38 current customers in Pennsylvania, which he estimated use only about 16,000 gallons per day.

Referring to the Dec. 1 meeting, Yake said, "[Thaeder] talked about reliability, that this whole thing is driven by reliability, but in that entire presentation there wasn't a single example of what reliability issue they are trying to resolve. It's one thing to say that we have an issue, but it's really concerting when they don't illustrate why the issue is there to justify the need for that amount of water."

Speaking at the end of his presentation, Yake again expressed the committee's concern that the activation of the Broad Run well may serve as a precedent of what could become an entire network of wells.

"It establishes a precedent where [Artesian] can start putting wells around the entire area," he said. "Many of us moved out here over a decade ago for the kind of environment we have right now. To then see that move in a direction that's different than what we have for the comprehensive plan would be concerting to us. Allowing one well to go in is like allowing the camel's head into the tent, and once the head gets in the tent, it's just a matter of time before other parts of the body get in there, and then you have to clean up the mess."

In the end, the best answer to the tug-and-pull of conflicting data and growing public concern about Artesian's plans for the Broad Run well may be found not in keeping Artesian out of Landenberg entirely, but in cutting back the amount of water that Artesian is requesting to have access to. In its report, Brickhouse recommended that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] consider limiting the initial permitted rate of withdrawal at the well.

"Increases in the rate of withdrawal could be approved subject to ongoing monitoring of surface flow and water levels in existing ground water wells that demonstrate the absence of adverse impacts," the report said.

Committee members agreed with Brickhouse's recommendation, but with certain checks and balances.

"On the one hand, we don't want to see a precedent established," said committee organizer Marion Waggoner. "That really cracks open the door, but on the other hand, if the DEP decides to open the door, then we have to have science that defines what a reasonable amount of water is that Artesian should be limited to, in order to prevent damage."

Artesian has already begun an attempt to establish a firm foothold in the township. On Nov. 3, the company filed an application with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission [PUC] for approval to begin 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.

In response to Artesian's application, the committee sent a letter of protest to the PUC in opposition to Artesian.

The immediate goal of the committee, Yake said, is to get the Brickhouse analysis into the hands of regulatory agencies like the PUC, the DEP and the Delaware River Basin Commission, as they make a determination about the future of the Broad Run well.

"We wanted to bring relevant science and analysis of data, and let the data do the talking," Yake said. "If there is going to be pumping, how do we manage the pumping activities, so if there is a drought, can pumping can be scaled back accordingly so that it doesn't affect local wells? If there is that much difference in the interpretation of what we believe is the proper data, what alternative is there? We want to make sure that we're not missing something."

Township solicitor Vince Pompo said that the report is yet another item for regulators to look at in the process of deciding on Artesian's request. "It's in the hands of the regulators," Pompo said. "Like it or not, it is somewhat of an adversarial system, meaning that we don't simply rely on the regulators to be the advocate for the applicant's position. If you want to present any argument to the contrary, you've got to sort of do it yourself. It appears to me that hiring an expert and presenting alternative analysis of the data is part and parcel of the process. I personally think it's very relevant."

Later in the meeting, Pompo announced that the township is authorizing a formal protest against Artesian in opposition to their application to the PUC. A formal protest will be filed later this week. The township has also received the support of Chester County, who Pompo said will be expected to endorse New Garden's protest against Artesian. Supervisor Steve Allaband said that London Britain and London Grove townships will determine whether they too will be endorsing New Garden's protest at their upcoming meetings. Pompo said that the protest will be made public after it is filed.

The formal results of the Brickhouse Environmental report will be shared at a public meeting on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. at the New Garden Township Building.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.


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