Battle for the Broad Run Well reaches next phase
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer
In the latest chapter of a seemingly endless back-and-forth squabble of discussion, proposals and arguments for and against, the application of Artesian Water to activate the Broad Run Well in Landenberg landed in Washington Crossing on Nov. 10, at a meeting of the Delaware River Basin Commission's [DRBC] board of directors.
The meeting occurred while the Nov. 11 edition of the Chester County Press was being printed. A summary of the Nov. 10 meeting will be published in the Nov. 19 edition of the Press.
The event came on the heels of a Sept. 16 meeting the DBRC board held in Wilmington, when it delayed its decision on the withdrawal application, after hearing more than 90 minutes of testimony and comment from those opposed to the application, including State Sen. Andy Dinniman.
The final DRBC decision on Artesian's application is expected to be reached at the DRBC's next meeting on Dec. 9, in Washington Crossing.
To refresh, Artesian Water, a Delaware-based company, is seeking approval to withdraw as much as 288,000 gallons of water per day from the well, at a rate of 200 gallons per minute, and over 100 million gallons projected over the course of one year from the aquifer. In order to be permitted to do so, Artesian must acquire a water withdraw permit from the DRBC, and then receive a franchise approval from the PUC. While the DRBC continues to debate on the Artesian application, the PUC is continuing to sort through preliminary objections to the application. While the PUC has yet to rule on the issue, it has assured Dinniman that it plans to host a public input hearing in the New Garden area, before a final ruling.
Recently, the DRBC issued a preliminary draft docket, one that if ultimately passed is guaranteed not to fully satisfy the aspirations of either Artesian or the legions of those opposed to the activation of the well -- but one that may end up serving as the legislative olive branch of compromise.
Under the guidelines of the draft, Artesian will be granted a water allocation, but one that will fall way short of its wish to draw 288,000 gallons of water per day from the well. Rather, the DRBC draft proposes that Artesian be limited to withdrawal rates of 100 gallons per minute, a starting point that will also include a monitoring program in order to assure that pumping will not have a negative impact on either the Broad Run Creek or private wells in the area.
If no impact is seen, then the allocation may be increased to 150 gallons per minute, and a final allocation change would be an increase to 200 gallons per minute, while the monitoring program would continue for at least a period of five years.
It's a first step, but not enough, those opposed to Artesian are saying.
"While it is encouraging that the DRBC is willing to make adjustments to address a number of the concerns raised regarding Artesian’s proposed testing and monitoring plan during the last meeting, we think some additional changes would further protect local residents and the environment," said Dinniman. "Most importantly, the amount of water the company is seeking to take from the Broad Run needs to be reduced, or at least tied to some benchmarks during a phase-in period."
"We are pleased to see the upgrades which the DRBC has made to the stream and ground water monitoring program," said Marion Waggoner, a Director of Save Our Water. "However, we have requested further changes which we believe are necessary. Concerned community stakeholders have lost confidence in the reliability of the hydro-geologic analysis from Artesian and do not that they would carry out an unbiased monitoring program.
"Consequently, Save Our Water is committed to long term monitoring of the health of the Broad Run stream independent of Artesian," Waggoner added. "Perhaps this is an opportunity for the DRBC to leverage an independent organization such as the Chester Country Water Resource Authority to collect data via a collaborative process involving the key stakeholders."
While the issue continues to be discussed, Dinniman and his staff have kept up their aggressive campaign against Artesian, canvassing local townships and municipalities with information. In addition, experts from regional environment organizations like Stroud Water Research Center and the Chester County Water Resources Authority have publicly voiced their opinions on the potential harmful impact of activating that well.
"I think the DRBC heard some of what we said, but I’m very concerned that it may be missing the big picture," Dinniman said. "The sheer amount of water Artesian wants to take from the Broad Run puts the question of water rights and the commercial use of the Commonwealth’s natural resources front and center.
"We have shown the facts and figures to illustrate what a potentially significant and negative impact this project will have on residential wells, the local environment, stream ecology, small businesses, and agriculture in what remains one of the last rural bastions of open space in our county. I hope the DRBC will ultimately listen to the people and the environmental experts, rather than just side with a utility."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.