Save Our Water group to file protest in response to Artesian application
● By Richard Gaw
On the morning of Feb. 16, three days after it first solicited responses from local citizens, Save Our Water – a grassroots organization created two years ago to oppose the application by Delaware-based Artesian Water to extract water from a Landenberg well – received more than 50 signatures that will become a part of a formal protest against Artesian's latest application, and filed with the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission.
Over the next week and leading up to the March 14 deadline, the number of protest signatures is expected to more than double.
Save Our Water is opposed to the application that was filed last December by Artesian Water Pennsylvania, Inc. with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to obtain a certificate of public convenience, in order for Artesian to implement the easements for the Broad Run well and placement of the water pipe from the water well to Broad Run Road.
A certificate of convenience is the legal mechanism by which a public utility gains the right to undertake certain activities to govern the approval of its acquisition property interest.
The protest letter reads:
RE: Docket A2017-2639994
I protest the Application A-2017-2639994 made by Artesian Water Pennsylvania
to the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission for Approval of Affiliated Interests Agreement and a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity Approving Transfer Of Property from
Artesian Resources Corporation, Docket Nos. G - 2016.
Since I do not wish to be an active participant in the above matter, I hereby request that Save Our Water protest this application on my behalf going forward in this matter.
It's Artesian's latest application in a long fight to gain final approval that would grant them the right to withdraw as much as 288,000 gallons of water per day from the well, at a rate of 200 gallons per minute, with more than 100 million gallons projected over the course of one year.
Artesian cleared a significant hurdle in that goal on Dec. 9, 2016, when the five-member Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) gave approval to Artesian's application to withdraw water from the Broad Run Aquifer at the site of the well. However, those opposed to the DRBC ruling feel that giving Artesian the OK to withdraw water from the well opens the way for what many in opposition believe is the company's ultimate goal: to extract water from Pennsylvania and transport it over the Delaware state line for distribution there.
In an email sent on to its constituents and supporters on Feb. 13, Save Our Water wrote that Artesian's application “clearly indicates that this would be intended to allow Artesian to use its water allocation granted by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to supply water to its Delaware customers. We strenuously object to this. This is obviously aimed at circumventing local regulations.
“We cannot overstate the potential for this to have significant impact on local well water supplies and the Broad Run stream,” the Save Our Water letter continued. “Furthermore, there is no obvious benefit to the majority of local Pennsylvania residents who are served by private wells.”
“If you read [Artesian's] application, the only justification that they offer for this is that they are asking for this certificate of convenience so that Artesian Delaware can utilize their allocation from the DRBC, to take water from Pennsylvania to Delaware,” said Marion Waggoner of Save Our Water. “They're actually coming out and admitting it this time.”
The objections to Artesian don't end there. In 2017, New Garden Township filed a court action against Artesian, in response to Artesian laying pipe from the Broad Run well to Broad Run Road that year, without obtaining permits from the township. At the Jan. 16 New Garden Township Board of Supervisors meeting, township solicitor Vince Pompo said any public filing of protest would be in conjunction with the township's lawsuit against Artesian.
“The township has been saying all along that in order for Artesian to gain an exemption from regulations because it claims it is a public utility, it must first get some type of approval from the PUC, [relevant to the company's wish to activate the well],” Pompo said at the meeting. “The PUC agreed with that decision and required Artesian to file additional documents in order to gain that approval and to notice the public, the township and other agencies of the application, so that they would participate in that application before the PUC.”
A formal letter of protest from the township – as well as one from State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, long an opponent of the proposed activation of the well – is due to be made public this week.
Waggoner remains hopeful that while the Save Our Water presence during Artesian's application process continues to pressure the company to prove to its opposition that activating the well will have no impact on local, private wells or users or the Broad Run stream, the group has already won a victory, realized during the DRPC ruling, which held Artesian to an extended period of water monitor testing at sites near the well and the stream.
It's a job that Waggoner does every week with fellow Save Our Water members Dave Yake and John Riabov, and all monitoring data is collected and archived online.
“We're going to give it our best shot, and hope that other entities will have persuasive stories,” he said of the group's latest protest. “We hope the PUC looks at the numbers of supporters we have, but at the end of the day, if Artesian gets what they want, our fallback position would be that there will still be a [water-level and stream] monitoring program, and we will continue to do our own monitoring. We have been steadfast on this all along.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.