Res­i­dents tes­tify against plans for pump­ing sta­tion

The Advance of Bucks County - - FRONT PAGE - By D.E. Sch­lat­ter

NEW­TOWN TOWN­SHIP - The Penn­syl­va­nia Pub­lic Util­ity Com­mis­sion held two pub­lic hear­ings Dec. 12 on New­town Arte­sian Water Co.’s plans to build a 228,000 gal­lon-a-day ground­wa­ter pump­ing sta­tion in New­town Town­ship.

Most area res­i­dents who tesWL­fiHd HxSUHssHd IHDUs WhDW WhHLU well-water lev­els could be ad­vHUsHOy DIIHcWHd.

ThH WZR ORcDO SuEOLc IRUuPs, which were held at 1 and 6:30 p.m. at the town­ship build­ing on Durham Road, gave prop­erty own­ers a chance to voice their con­cerns about the pri­vately-run uWLOLWy’s SURSRsDO Dnd LI LW ZRuOd DIIHcW WhHLU RZn ZHOOs Ln WhH nRUWhHDsW cRUnHU RI WhH WRZn­shLS.

,W cDOOs IRU cRn­sWUucWLng D ZHOO house on an un­der­sized lot on the pri­vately-owned Tan­ner Lawn and Snow Store prop­erty along New­town-Washington Cross­ing Road (Route 532) near Eldridge Road in the town­ship’s Con­ser­va­tion Man­age­ment (CM) Zon­ing District.

About 15 area res­i­dents turned RuW DW WhH fiUsW 38C hHDULng, ZhLch ODsWHd DERuW Dn-hRuU-Dnd-D-hDOI. 0RsWOy DOO RI WhRsH ZhR WHsWL­fiHd have their own ground­wa­ter sys­tems, and all op­posed the pump­ing sta­tion.

Barry Roberts of Washington Cross­ing Road op­er­ates a fam­ily farm and plant nurs­ery on the prop­erty next to the fa­cil­ity.

With two ground­wa­ter wells on his land, Roberts said that he’s wor­ried about low water lev­els, rather than the aes­thet­ics of the pro­posed pump­ing sta­tion it­self.

“If our water fails, what do we do,” he de­clared. “My cut­tings need a lot of water.”

Roberts wanted as­sur­ances from New­town Arte­sian that water would be pro­vided to his farm if his wells run dry.

“If we have to buy water, we’re done,” Roberts ex­claimed. “We’re out of busi­ness.”

Roberts’ neigh­bor, hath­leen heyser of Wind­ing Lane, echoed that sen­ti­ment.

“The pro­posed well has the po­ten­tial to dry up neigh­bor­ing wells,” said heyser, who op­er­ates a horse farm.

She also ex­pressed con­cern that util­ity’s pump­ing sta­tion would not meet the min­i­mum land re­quire­ments to put a pump­ing sta­tion in New­town Town­ship’s con­ser­va­tion district.

But New­town Arte­sian’s gen­eral coun­sel Bren­den Brett told the res­i­dents that the pro­posed well would be sim­i­lar WR WKH FRPSDny’s fivH H[LsWLnJ ZHOOs Ln WKH DUHD, DnG RnOy would pump only as much water as needed.

Ac­cord­ing to Brett, if neigh­bor­ing wells are af­fected once the pump is built, the com­pany would con­nect those prop­erty own­ers to the water com­pany free of charge, or pay to dig them an­other well. “That’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Brett as­sured the res­i­dents. Mean­while, duy Pol­he­mus, who lives on Washington CURssLnJ 5RDG MusW RvHU WKH ERUGHU Ln 8SSHU 0DNH­fiHOG Town­ship, said that that grant­ing the util­ity’s re­quest could set a zon­ing prece­dent in the area.

“It’s go­ing to have a big im­pact on my­self and my neighERUs, DnG D ELJ Ln­fluHnFH Rn GHvHORSPHnW,” KH FODLPHG, “Ds time goes on, water is go­ing to be­come more and more of an is­sue.”

gu­dith Norkin, who lives in a hous­ing devel­op­ment on Clive­den Drive and is a New­town Arte­sian cus­tomer, ques­tioned whether sur­round­ing aquifers can ad­e­quately han­dle such a large pump­ing sta­tion.

“WKDW Ls WKH UHFKDUJH UDWH RI sSHFL­fiF DTuLIHUs?” sKH asked.

Harrisburg at­tor­ney Thomas Niesen, who is rep­re­sent­ing the water com­pany in the PUC pro­ceed­ings, said that en­gi­neer­ing stud­ies, which are part of the PUC process, will de­ter­mine how quickly aquifers can be re­plen­ished.

“Based on work done so far, the aquifer is ca­pa­ble of han­dling the water,” Niesen ex­plained.

How­ever, Pam citz­patrick of Stoopville Road, who lives DERuW D PLOH IURP WKH SURSRsHG sLWH, WHsWL­fiHG WKDW sKH sR far has never had a prob­lem with her ground­wa­ter sup­ply.

“There would be no way to prove if my well fails that it would be due to the New­town Arte­sian Water Com­pany,” she ar­gued.

8SSHU 0DNH­fiHOG 6uSHUvLsRU LDUUy BUHHGHn DOsR DSSHDUHG DW WKH fiUsW P8C KHDULnJ sDyLnJ WKDW KH ZDs WKHUH not rep­re­sent­ing that town­ship’s board of su­per­vi­sors, but in­stead speak­ing for his con­stituents.

“Some peo­ple in the Dol­ing­ton area have water prob­lems,” he noted. “The con­cern that my con­stituent base has is what af­fect is this go­ing to have on their wells and on fu­ture wells.”

PUC Ad­min­is­tra­tive Law gudge An­gela gones, who presided over the pub­lic hear­ings, said she will even­tu­ally de­ter­mine whether the New­town Arte­sian’s re­quest to build the pump­ing sta­tion is “rea­son­ably nec­es­sary for its op­er­a­tions.”

gones said that in or­der to keep cus­tomer rates down a 1996 P8C DuGLW DGvLsHG WKH FRPSDny WR finG RWKHU sRuUFHs and rely less on buy­ing water from the Bucks County Water and Sewer Author­ity.

New­town Arte­sian ar­gues that it needs the new well to meet the area’s grow­ing water de­mand. The util­ity claims that a new well would hold the cost of water down and make it less ex­pen­sive than what it would be if it bought water from third par­ties.

1LHsHn sDLG WKDW WKH FRPSDny DOUHDGy RSHUDWHs fivH ZHOOs in the area, but needs an­other one to “recharge the water sources, par­tic­u­larly in the sum­mer months.”

In an ef­fort to cir­cum­vent a pro­tracted zon­ing bat­tle with WKH WRZn­sKLS suSHUvLsRUs, WKH ZDWHU FRPSDny fiOHG WKH PUC ap­pli­ca­tion in early Oc­to­ber seek­ing per­mis­sion to build the pump­ing sta­tion in the con­ser­va­tion district.

Un­der state law, the PUC has the author­ity to grant the re­quest, over­rid­ing lo­cal zon­ing and land use or­di­nances.

The town­ship su­per­vi­sors voted to for­mally op­pose the util­ity’s ef­forts to ob­tain the needed town­ship zon­ing vari­ances in or­der to con­struct the fa­cil­ity on an un­der­sized lot on the Tan­ner prop­erty.

The su­per­vi­sors ques­tioned the com­pany’s re­quest to use only 2.5 acres in the CM Zoned District, in­stead of the re­quired 10-acre min­i­mum. In ad­di­tion to a vari­ance for the re­quired min­i­mum lot size, the util­ity also had been seek­ing three other land-use waivers from the town­ship. The util­ity has about 500 cus­tomers in the CM district. To as­sist in its op­po­si­tion to the PUC ap­pli­ca­tion, the su­per­vi­sors has hired out­side coun­sel Thomas Snis­cak of the HDUULsEuUJ ODZ fiUP RI HDZNH 0F.HRn & 6nLsFDN, ZKLFK spe­cial­izes in reg­u­la­tory mat­ters.

In his open­ing re­marks, Snis­cak ac­cused New­town Arte­sian of an “end run around land and zon­ing re­quire­ments.”

“They should have gone through that xzon­ing] process and let it play out,” he as­serted. “If the PUC grants their re­quest I hope it at­taches ap­pro­pri­ate con­di­tions.”

In a 1996 au­dit of New­town Arte­sian, gudge gones said the PUC ad­vised the com­pany that in or­der to keep its rates GRZn LW sKRuOG finG RWKHU sRuUFHs, DnG UHOy OHss Rn EuyLnJ water from the Bucks County Water and Sewer Author­ity.

The lo­cally-based New­town Arte­sian, which was in­cor­po­rated in 1888, serves New­town Bor­ough, as well as New­town Town­ship and the north­ern part of Mid­dle­town Town­ship. It has about 10,000 cus­tomers, roughly T,500 of them are in in New­town Town­ship.

Both sides will now as­sess the pub­lic record of the PUC pro­ceed­ings. If needed, ev­i­den­tiary hear­ings will be sched­uled to de­ter­mine whether there should be any ex­pert tes­ti­mony.

The ad­min­is­tra­tive law judge said that a de­ci­sion could be handed down some­time in May whether New­town Arte­sian can go ahead with the pump­ing sta­tion.

Ei­ther side can then chal­lenge the de­ter­mi­na­tion in Com­mon­wealth Court.

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