False alarm: Artesian's plans still on at Broad Run well site
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
A visitor that thousands in southern Chester County believed had packed up and shipped out of the area made a controversial appearance in the community recently, one that set off a firestorm of phone calls and e-mails to elected and appointed officials, slowed traffic on Broad Run and Newark roads in Landenberg, and incited several drivers motoring past the site to voice their displeasure over what they were seeing from the road.
On assignment from Artesian Pennsylvania, Inc., a subsidiary of Delaware-based Artesian Water Resources, members of Austin-Bednash Construction of Newark, Del. spent Feb. 20 and Feb. 21 installing an underground, eight-inch pipeline, beginning 15 feet from the site of the well and ending at Broad Run Road, a distance of about 100 feet. Over the course of the installation, a representative from the construction company told the Chester County Press that he and his crew were visited by several passers-by, including two New Garden Township supervisors. He said that some shouted loudly at the crew from their vehicles, assuming that they were from Artesian.
Within hours of the time the shovels first hit the ground, dozens of e-mails from irate citizens began to pour into the Save Our Water Committee, a group of local residents concerned with the potential impact an activated well would have on the water supply and distribution in New Garden Township and surrounding municipalities.
The drivers were not alone. For the entire weekend, the installation of the underground pipes caused confusion and anger for hundreds of township officials, residents and elected officials, many of whom were under the impression that as a result of its Feb. 3 letter to Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) Secretary Rosemary Chiavetta, one that requested a Leave to Withdraw application, that Artesian would end its nearly two-year-long plan to activate the aquifer.
In a Feb. 23 phone interview with the Chester County Press, Joe DiNunzio, an Artesian spokesman, stated that the Leave to Withdraw application it filed with the PUC was merely a move by the company to end their pursuit of establishing a franchise designation for the aquifer. However, DiNunzio said that Artesian will focus its energy on meeting the requirements set forth by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), who approved Artesian's proposal to withdraw water from the Broad Run aquifer in December, under the proviso that the company first conduct a nine-month testing of the aquifer to assure local authorities and regulatory agencies that the rate Artesian wishes to pump from the well -- projected to be up to 288,000 gallons of water per day -- will not decimate water levels in the vicinity of the well.
DiNunzio insisted that the PUC petition and the DRBC ruling are "two separate matters," and apologized on behalf of the company for not making Artesian's intentions with the Broad Run aquifer more clear.
"It is obviously a misunderstanding and deserved clarification, but the PUC withdrawal was a decision independent of our efforts with the DRBC monitoring plan," he said. "No pending development on any of those parcels required service at this point, so there was no reason to spend time with the PUC on this matter.
"From our perspective, its pretty clear that the PUC regulates franchises, but it doesn't regulate the monitoring plan. Things understood by us are not always understood by others."
DiNunzio said that prior to the installation of the pipes, he contacted New Garden Township Manager Tony Scheivert, to inform him that while the company was withdrawing its pursuit of a franchise label with the PUC, it would continue to focus on the nine-month testing. When reached for comment, Scheivert said that while he confirmed his phone conversation with DiNunzio, he said that at no time during the conversation did DiNunzio mention or request information from Scheivert about filing for township permits needed in order to install the pipes at the Broad Run aquifer.
Subsequently, the township has sent Artesian and the property owner -- Broad Run Valley, Inc. -- a notice of violation of township ordinances, for installation of the pipes at the aquifer site. To date, the township has not heard a response from the Delaware-based water company.
For thousands of residents and dozens of elected officials, appointed officers, environmentalists and regulatory agency representatives, Artesian's presence in southern Chester County has been a more than two-year conundrum of miscommunication, orchestrated by a Delaware-based company whom the "locals" view as an outsider, and the recent installation of the pipeline at the Broad Run aquifer has only exacerbated the division. In an effort clear up lines of communication, Scheivert said that he is inviting Artesian representatives to meet with New Garden Township officials, a meeting that Township Solicitor Vincent Pompo is crucial to understanding what Artesian's plans are.
"Relative to going forward, I don't have information on what exactly they're intending to do," Pompo said. "If they want to go through nine months of testing, does that mean that they're only going to do testing at that site, and interconnect that with their system, so that they can do testing? They have to tell us what they're going to do, and then we can advise them what approvals they would need from the township."
Meanwhile, it's business as usual for Artesian.
"Our intention is to complete the monitoring plan as required by the DRBC," DiNunzio said. "We want everybody to be comfortable in knowing that our use of that well will not have negative impact on stream flow and environment.
"The well has to be activated in order to complete testing, and from there, whatever land use decisions are determined will follow, but we can't get past square one without pumping the well, and showing that there's no effect on neighboring wells, as a result of the pumping. Based on everything we've done, were moving forward, because we have confidence that the testing will meet everyone's satisfaction."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.