Artesian files application to withdraw plans for Landenberg well
By Richard Gaw
Richard L. Gaw, Staff
Artesian Water Pennsylvania, Inc., which has been viewed by many residents in southern Chester County as the infringing neighbor, the unwelcome party guest, and the corporate giant from over the state line, is about to leave town.
In a Feb. 3 letter to Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) Secretary Rosemary Chiavetta, Alan Michael Seltzer, an attorney for Artesian Water Pennsylvania, Inc., the Newark-based water supplier submitted a request for a Leave to Withdraw application that effectively ends Artesian's nearly two-year-long plans to activate the Broad Run Aquifer on Broad Run and Newark roads in Landenberg.
Artesian first filed their request to "offer, render, furnish or supply water service" on Nov. 3, 2014, for the purpose of withdrawing as much as 288,000 gallons per day from the aquifer, at a rate of 200 gallons per minute.
Artesian's decision to back out of their plans comes on the heels of a Dec. 9 meeting in Washington Crossing in Bucks County, when the five-member Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) gave approval – with a major provision – to Artesian to withdraw water from the aquifer.
The key proviso of the agreement stated that before Artesian could begin activating the well, it would need to submit to a rigorous, nine-month monitoring program to assure local authorities and regulatory agencies that these numbers will not decimate the water levels in the area, and in particular, local wells and the nearby White Clay Creek.
The DRBC also ruled that Artesian would begin conducting its own monitoring and analysis of water levels once a week during those nine months, and share these results with the DRBC, the Chester County Water Resources Authority, the Pennsylvania Office of the Department of Environmental Protection, and New Garden Township.
The nine-month monitoring period were not the only hoops Artesian would have needed to go through before activating the well. The company still faced several layers of approval, such as having to obtain various local zoning licenses from New Garden Township, as well as receive franchise approval from the PUC to expand its service area.
In its petition, Artesian stated that it considered its application to receive final approval from the PUC, "in light of all of the factors the Commission (PUC) considers in its adjudication of applications to approve a public utility's request for expansion of service territory..."
Rather than continue to litigate with the PUC, Artesian stated in the petition that it has "reconsidered its plan to expand service into the proposed service territory."
"Under the circumstances, (Artesian) believes that foregoing the cost of continued litigation to an uncertain result in regard to this contested request for expansion of service territory is not in the best interests of the Company and its customers," the petition stated.
The Chester County Press contacted an Artesian spokesman, requesting comment on the petition, who responded that Artesian has not further comment beyond what is stated in the petition.
Practically from the time Artesian first submitted its request to activate the Broad Run aquifer, the company began to receive a backlash of opposition, galvanized most prominently by State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, and by the formation of the Save Our Water Committee, a grass-roots consortium of local residents whose membership surpasses 1,000. In addition to coordinating letter-writing campaigns, establishing a social media presence and holding public meetings, Dave Yake and Marion Waggoner, the Committee's head spokespersons, conduct weekly stream monitoring tests in the Broad Run aquifer area.
"We are pleased with the final outcome at the PUC," said Marion Waggoner of the Save Our Water Committee. "However, we want to make it clear to everyone that this result will not change our stream monitoring program. Save Our Water will continue with its program to monitor the Broad Run Creek, long term. We are firmly committed to opposing any present or future plans which would jeopardize our aquifer, local wells and streams, and our environment. We believe much of our community supports this philosophy."
Dinniman, who has been a strong and consistent opponent of the commercial water company’s plan to withdraw water from the Broad Run Aquifer, said it appears that Artesian never intended for the vast majority of the water to stay in Pennsylvania anyway.
“This was our fear from the beginning,” said Dinniman, who last year successfully fought off Artesian’s challenge to his official standing in the PUC case. “As we suspected, it looks like Artesian always planned to use water from the Broad Run to serve its thousands of customers in Delaware. Otherwise, how could they justify the need to take hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per day from the aquifer?”
Dinniman said that his office will continue to work with impacted residents, township officials and members of the Save Our Water Committee.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .