Artesian Water Company Given Approval to Activate Landenberg Well10/21/2020 07:06PM ● By Richard L. Gaw
Despite a decades-long battle that pitted its key
stakeholders and citizen-led initiatives against an alphabet soup of regulatory
agencies in a unified effort to keep township water from being exported to
Delaware, New Garden Township has finally lost its battle against the Delaware-based Artesian Water Company.
In news that was shared at the Oct. 19 Board of Supervisors online meeting, Artesian received unanimous approval from the Commonwealth Court on Oct. 14, in a decision that stated the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) was correct in declaring that Artesian is a public utility.
The decision now allows Artesian the license to begin extracting more than 200,000 gallons of water per day from the Broad Run aquifer -- a well the company owns on the corner of Newark and Broad Run roads in Landenberg. With the ruling, Artesian can not only pump water to Delaware, but to expansion areas eyed for possible development in the vicinity of the well.
In sharing the Commonwealth Court’s verdict, attorney Bill Christman told the board that the township could appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, but said that it is not likely that the appeal efforts would be fruitful.
“Artesian was seeking a certificate of public convenience from the PUC to say that they are a public utility, while at the same time, the township had sought to enforce its ordinances against them,” Christman explained. “[Artesian] appealed those enforcements to the Court of Common Pleas in Chester County. After years of fighting, the PUC has now said that Artesian is a public utility, and public utilities are not subject to many municipal regulations.”
Opposition dates back to 1994
The ruling by the Commonwealth Court concludes a long verbal and legal battle of wills between Artesian and the township that dates back to 1994, when the water company first applied for permission to activate the well. The application was countered by an onslaught of public opposition, seen most visibly in the large number of yellow “Save Our Water” signs that were posted throughout the township.
Eventually, the company pulled its application.
On June 18, 2013, Artesian’s representatives told supervisors that they planned to connect the well into its existing water distribution system in Delaware, by way of a water main to be constructed along Broad Run and Newark roads.
Representatives told the supervisors that their testing would be regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection(DEP), the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and local ordinances, and agreed that it would be subject to township Ordinance 143, which regulates the drilling and maintenance of wells, and provides for well water exportation permit and withdrawal fee.
In early December of 2013, property owners near the well received a letter from Artesian administration engineer Kathleen B. Thaeder, informing them that Artesian would be conducting a 72-hour aquifer test sometime during the first quarter of 2014. In her letter, Thaeder attempted to alleviate concern, informing the letter's recipients that previous testing of the Broad Run well “over a 96-hour period at a rate of 70 gallons per minute showed no impact on monitoring wells in the area.” Further, she wrote that the projected rate of water extraction for the upcoming test would not exceed 200 gallons per minute.
On Dec. 16, 2013 and Jan. 27, 2014, several residents came to the Township Building to voice their objection to the return of Artesian in Landenberg, expressing their anger that the company’s extraction of large volumes of water from the Broad Run well would severely impact the availability of water for hundreds of township residents during a drought.
The community-wide rejection of the company’s plans led to the formation of Save Our Water, led by township residents Marion and Jane Waggoner, who soon received the signatures of hundreds of residents who signed a petition objecting to Artesian’s application.
Dinniman voiced opposition
While the township and its solicitor Vincent Pompo continued to contest Artesian’s application by leaning on the strength of its zoning district laws, ordinance compliance regulations and conditional use restrictions, Sen. Andrew Dinniman continued to voice his objection to Artesian’s application to activate the Broad Run aquifer.
In several meetings with and letters sent to statewide regulatory agencies – and in public forums -- Dinniman challenged Artesian’s legal standing, saying said that he considered Artesian’s legal tactics an attempt to skirt around regulations in their effort to pipe water out of Pennsylvania.
Left with no leverage power, board chairman Pat Little said that the township’s only recourse will be to continue to monitor the water levels of its wells, in conjunction with the progress Artesian makes.
“It did cost the township a lot of money and we continually lost battles, with the exception of one, which gave us a little bit of hope that allowed us to enter into more cases,” Little said of the township’s protests. “It is very frustrating from a supervisor’s standpoint, because I feel there is nothing we can do. I feel like we’re caught by the PUC, and everything that has gone before judges have been against us and for the PUC.
“Legally, I think we have done everything that we possibly can.”
Board member Steve Allaband recalled the yellow signs of opposition that appeared in the township in the 1990s.
“I have been involved with this on-going battle for many years,” he said. “One of my biggest fears is hat here is not only the well at the corner, but there are four more wells that belong to that aquifer on Broad Run Road. With Artesian now having PUC approval, I guess the sky is the limit.
“It’s pretty scary if you live in that area or nearby, not only in our township but in London Britain Township,” he added. “There are a lot of shallow wells. It’s concerning to me.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].