Editorial: Articulating your opposition
By Richard Gaw
On the evening of Dec. 1, 2014, at about 6:30 p.m., the first of what would become a coalition of more than 200 people began to file into the Avondale Fire Company. At first, there seemed to be enough seating to accompany what most thought would be a sizable audience, who gathered to hear Artesian senior vice president of operations John M. Thaeder discuss Artesian's plans to activate a well it owns on the corner of Broad Run and Newark roads in Landenberg.
Just before the clock struck seven, however, a second wave of people arrived, sending fire company officials scurrying around the fire hall to find seats for everyone.
For 90 minutes, Thaeder provided a broad sweep of statistics and data that seemed to show the activation of the Broad Run well would have no environmental impact on those property owners whose homes – and wells – border the Broad Run pump. He was polite and factual, and after providing Artesian's side of the story, Thaeder was promptly pummeled by an avalanche of information and opinion, as many in the audience came prepared to funnel their emotions into facts that disputed many of Artesian's claims.
Inspired by the work of State Sen. Andy Dinniman, and called to action by the then newly formed Save Our Water Committee, area residents were joined by environmental activists and local leaders in a united cause, the likes of which has not been seen in the community since a grassroots organization known as the Friends of New Garden gathered the signatures and objections of hundreds of their neighbors to fight the plan of the Philadelphia Real Estate Investment Trust to develop White Clay Point along Route 41, three years ago.
To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it's about to be deja-vu all over again.
On Sept. 8, these same citizens are invited to come back to the Avondale Fire Company for a town hall meeting coordinated by the Delaware River Basin Authority, commonly referred to as the DRBC. The meeting will allow the public to comment on the Broad Run well, prior to the DRBC's meetings on Sept. 15 and 16 in Trenton, N.J., when they are expected to rule on Artesian's request to activate the well.
If projection is 20/20 – or even close to it – the audience at the Avondale Fire Company on Sept. 8 – both in its numbers and in its collective voice – could make the Dec. 1, 2014 gathering there look like an Eloise tea party at the Plaza Hotel.
Yet, whether there are 200 there, or 400 who will ultimately file into the fire hall on Sept. 8, those who attend will gather no victories through sheer volume of voices. It will not be the time for shouting down the moderators, nor spouting off mere emotions. The DRBC did not schedule this meeting to just hear yelling. The only way that meeting will be won by those who oppose Artesian's plans in southern Chester County is through the introduction of salient and powerful facts, spoken one after the other.
If it is your intention to attempt to influence DRBC officials to deny Artesian their wish to activate the Broad Run well – for whatever reason or reasons you have – leave your emotions at home, and instead, do your homework prior to reaching the podium.