Artesian receives setbacks in pursuit of Broad Run well activation
● By Richard Gaw
On March 13, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) Administrative Law Judges Cynthia Williams Fordham and Darlene Heep approved Sen. Andy Dinniman's standing as a part of official record in the application of Artesian Water Pennsylvania, Inc., as well as the standings of several other individuals and groups.
This ruling was in response to Artesian's filing of a protest with the PUC that objected to the standing of not only Dinniman, but to more than 100 other individuals and groups who had filed for "official party of record" or "intervener" status in Artesian's application. Most prominent in this group is the Save Our Water Committee, a citizens action group of more than 2,000 residents of New Garden Township who have opposed the presence of Artesian in the township.
"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." In their ruling, Fordham and Heep 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.
"We feel that this is the kind of response we had hoped for, because it points out that the PUC recognizes the importance of a non-profit advocacy group [in issues like this]," said Marion Waggoner, the founder of the Save Our Water Committee. "They recognize that there are people who are a part of the Committee who live in an area where they would not have access to any other water except Artesian's, and that they'd be held captive to Artesian, who would be allowed to call the shots."
In April 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] 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.
At the time they filed their protest with the PUC, Artesian told the Chester County Press although the company respects the rights of Sen. Dinniman and concerned residents to "speak in the press and in the public square" about Artesian's application, "the laws of the Commonwealth regarding 'standing' in an administrative proceeding limit participation in such legal proceedings to those with a direct stake in the outcome."
"Artesian’s position is that Sen. Dinniman and most of the protestors do not have standing under the law to be litigants in the PUC proceeding, because they do not reside in the proposed service territory [of the Broad Run well]," the statement read. "So even if Sen. Dinniman and the other citizens who do not reside in the proposed service territory are dismissed from participating in the proceeding by the Administrative Law Judges, the case will proceed and be open to the public."
Earlier in March, the Delaware River Basin Commission [DRBC] ruled that a groundwater/surface water monitoring program will be required in the vicinity of the Broad Run well, in order to obtain data on long-term groundwater and surface water conditions. The monitoring program must be submitted for approval to the DRBC by June 15.
The DRBC report also stated that "no new water connections shall be made to premises connected to sewage systems which are not in compliance with all applicable effluent limits contained in State permits," as well as with DRBC water quality regulations.
"Commission staff have determined that while the Broad Run PA well pumping test did not indicate that adverse impacts to the local hydrologic system would occur as a result of pumping, and that the aquifer test satisfied all DRBC requirements, a groundwater/surface water monitoring program will be implemented to confirm there will not be any adverse impacts to the Broad Run hydrologic system," the DRBC report stated.
During its assessment, DRBC staff reviewed comments sent to them by several organizations, including the Chester County Water Resources Authority, the National Park Service, the White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic River Program, and the Save Our Water Committee, who submitted a report written by its consultant, Brickhouse Environmental.
"These comments were very parallel to our comments, that pointed to the results of the Brickhouse Report, on what may happen to the stream and the groundwater," Waggoner said. "This shows that the DRBC has recognized the local environment. We feel that were vindicated on our point. If [Artesian's application to activate the Broad Run Well] is not approved, that would be wonderful, but if it is approved, we will know that we will see some controls, thus giving us a lot of protection."
When asked to comment on these two rulings, an Artesian official said that the company has no comments at this time.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.