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Chester County Press

Save Our Water responds to Artesian Water

05/07/2014 03:03PM ● By Acl

Letter to the Editor:

Save Our Water residents have been concerned for some time about the threat of Artesian Water’s exportation of our precious water to Delaware. Thanks to Artesian Resources CEO Dian Taylor’s  April 30 Letter to the Editor, we can be relieved that Artesian Resources’s planned water exportation to Delaware is not motivated by a need to solve a water shortage among its Delaware customers. To the contrary, her statements have illuminated a corporate motive that is far more insidious, and far more damaging to our community. 

As to the Delaware water shortage issue, Ms. Taylor stated:  "To be clear, Artesian does not have any shortage of water to serve its Delaware customers."  Careful checking of public records in Delaware has confirmed Taylor's assertion, in that Artesian does already purchase about a billion gallons per year of Pennsylvania-sourced water from Chester Water Authority (CWA) under a longstanding "take or pay" interconnect agreement.  And, it is likely that much more water could be purchased from CWA in the future given its reservoir capacity.  Artesian’s existing water sources will help fuel its increasing supply of water to a growing base of customers in Delaware to the tune of 900,000 gallons per day between 2012 and 2020. Artesian Senior Vice President John Thaeder acknowledged at a June 18, 2012 public meeting of the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors that the planned exportation of New Garden’s water would “benefit existing customers in Delaware" in terms of water supply back-up and fire suppression. Of course, it is cold comfort that Artesian’s plan for exportation of our water is not based on a crisis motive. When our water supply is pumped away across state lines, motive doesn’t really matter after all. And, you can be sure that Artesian would rather take our water for free than buy water from CWA.

But while Ms. Taylor’s letter dispelled one motive, she inadvertently acknowledged to readers another motive that, long-term, should be much more frightening to our New Garden Township area community. At the conclusion of her letter, Ms. Taylor confirmed that a portion of the Broad Run well was intended to serve future New Garden customers: “We look forward to being able to serve … other future New Garden Township communities…” Artesian is now the largest private water supplier in Delaware and growing.  Its long-term business plan is certainly predicated upon extending its customer base and development of the infrastructure needed to further its expansion drive.  If successful, this may result in its becoming the most dominant regional water supplier. Each additional customer brings in the capital need to finance more infrastructure to add more customers in an endless expansion cycle.  This is simply what successful businesses do.  And now, per Ms. Taylor’s letter, Artesian has acknowledged publicly that the company has set its sights on us. 

A public records search has revealed a 2009 Securities and Exchange Commission filing in which Artesian Resources stated that Artesian Water Pennsylvania provides public water service to a residential community (Broad Run) consisting of 38 customers in Chester County.  In spite of that small customer base in Pennsylvania, Artesian filed an application with the PA Public Utilities Commission to "increase our service in Pennsylvania."  The request was granted in 2005.  Per the record:  "This application involved specific developments, in which we expect modest future growth.  Home construction in these developments has not progressed yet pending resolution of developer related township approvals".  So what is the implication of these filings, in light of Ms. Taylor’s statement? Artesian obviously intends to take our water to build out and create more density (“future New Garden customers”) in our rural New Garden Township community, threatening the very rural qualities that we’ve enjoyed as residents. 

Area residents take note!  Except for resistance from area residents and the New Garden Board of Supervisors against Artesian’s Broad Run well push over a decade ago, Artesian's thrust would have already completely changed the character of the area extending out from the Broad Run well.  If we do not unite to create strong public resistance to Artesian's plan, the PA Department of Environmental Protection may override the township ordinances and  approve Artesian's  anticipated water use application for their well. To be sure, in the short term, we would still be protected by our Board of Supervisors, our zoning ordinances, and the New Garden Township Comprehensive Plan.  However, we must recognize that the makeup and focus of the Board changes with each new member elected.   And history shows that once infrastructure is built in an area, intense pressure on a township's board, which may include court litigation from developers and infrastructure owners, can ultimately result in changed zoning for an area.  Once that occurs, the spread of higher density housing development (fueled by urban utility infrastructure) can completely destroy a rural community’s quality of life. Do we want that to happen here?

As Save Our Water has stated previously, there are other negative consequences to existing New Garden area residents if Artesian succeeds here.  If enough water is pumped from our aquifer system, our wells may go dry and we may be forced to buy back our own water from Artesian, through infrastructure and hookups which could cost us thousands of dollars. If our underlying aquifer is depleted over time due to over-development, Artesian would simply be able to draw from its existing contracts with CWA and others and import water to us from other water sources outside our community—at a premium and via pipes we residents were forced to purchase, I personally enjoy the benefit of being able to drink water from my well without a corporate middleman inserting itself between me and my checkbook. And I like being able to drink the water underneath the ground in our local community, rather than getting it piped in from some outside source.  I suspect I’m not alone.  

Finally, consider the negative effect this will have on the Broad Run Creek and the White Clay Creek ecosystem, especially during drought conditions.  Does anyone actually believe that it is possible to pump up to nearly a billion gallons of water over the next decade from the Broad run well without harming the local environment?  Doesn't the White Clay Creek system, which is protected under the US National Wild and Scenic Rivers program deserve some consideration here?  Each of us will be partially responsible for the final outcome if we don’t act together.  Please join Save Our Water’s efforts.  Help stop Artesian’s profit motive from damaging our community and environment.

Marion Waggoner

Save Our Water Committee

Landenberg Area Resident