Editorial: A wellspring of compromise, so far
● By Richard Gaw
More than two years ago, John Thaeder of the Delaware-based Artesian Resources Corp. stood before the New Garden Board of Supervisors and talked about the company’s wish to activate a well on property it owned at the corner of Newark and Broad Run roads in Landenberg.
Thaeder’s presentation lasted all of five minutes, and at the time, resonated like an innocuous afterthought. In the two years since that whispery introduction, the eventual application of Artesian to activate the well set off a firestorm of controversy, backed by disapproval that echoed in the voices of state and local elected officials, regulatory agencies and a noisy, beehive swarm of citizens.
Throughout those two years, that small well -- protruding no more than two feet from the ground in the middle of a vacant field once owned by the Wilkinson family -- generated more conflicting documentation, argument, and controversy than anything else in New Garden Township.
Clearly, the fight was on: In this corner, Artesian said that their pump test revealed that their aspiration of pumping and distributing 288,000 gallons of water a day would have no negative impact on the local environment or water levels. In the other corner, local voices organized under the grassroots Save Our Water Committee, and State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, who became the champion trumpeter in the opposition to Artesian’s application.
Now, even after a three-month delay on a final ruling sent them back to discussion, the Delaware River Basin Commission [DRBC] finally ruled in favor of Artesian at its Dec. 9 meeting in Washington Crossing, Pa. In the wake of this decision, there is certain to be a hearty list of dissenters who remain steadfast in their belief that Artesian’s application to activate the well should have been rejected completely. And yet, what this contingent fails to understand is that without the aggressive campaign to hold Artesian to realistic rates of withdrawal, and to hold them responsible for transparent record-keeping of its monitoring systems, they might have had a smooth ride – 288,000 gallons of water withdrawn, per day, from the start, while being held to look-the-other-way standards of regulation.
As it stands now, Artesian will be forced to conduct weekly testing on the Broad Run Aquifer and the nearby White Clay Creek, and share those reports with several regulatory agencies, all of which are expected to be posted on the New Garden Township webite and elsewhere.
While the water company has cleared one hurdle, they still have a few more to leap over, including obtaining approval from the Public Utilities Commission.
Clearly, the fight against Artesian's presence in southern Chester County is far from over, but in the short respite between now and Artesian’s next phases of approval, it is time for the thousands of residents in New Garden, Franklin and London Britain townships who opposed Artesian’s presence in southern Chester County to thank those who wrote letters to authorities, aired their grievances in carefully-rehearsed arguments, and conducted thier own scientific testing of the same streams that Artesian will have to test.
In the end, they demonstrated the temerity and persistence of the good fight. In the end, they may not have picked up a rock and felled Goliath, but their work has contributed to a decision that holds a corporate giant to the checks and balances of accountability.