The regional government agency responsible for protecting the Delaware River watershed approved a water company's plan to pump from a Chester County well at its meeting Wednesday after the commission addressed many concerns from residents.
Residents and environmentalists worry that the water company's plan could dry up their personal wells and damage federally protected streams. Based on some of their suggestions, the Delaware River Basin Commission added safeguards to the plan.
Artesian Resources Corp., a water company based in Delaware, has said its pumping will not harm the environment.
The commission had delayed several times a vote on Artesian's plan to pump about 200,000 gallons of water per day from a well in New Garden Township. The commission - which represents Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and the federal government - cited the large number of public comments as a reason for the delays.
Joseph DiNunzio, a vice president at Artesian, called the commission's process "fair and full" and said the company was pleased to get the agency's approval.
"We respect the concerns that were raised and look forward to being a good neighbor," he said.
Artesian still needs approvals at the local and state levels, including from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, before it expands the area to which it provides water.
David Kovach, who supervises permits for projects for the Delaware River Basin Commission, said modifications to a monitoring program that members of the public suggested will improve the quality of data the commission receives to track the health of the river basin and any effects of the pumping.
The stricter monitoring plan will require more measurements of water levels by Artesian, including weekly measurements during dry periods the first year of pumping. Environmentalists and residents who live near the well were concerned that measurements during wet periods would skew results to paint a rosier picture of the health of streams and wells.
Representatives from Save Our Water, a nonprofit advocacy group started by residents, said the new plan the commission crafted is a fair compromise.
"We really appreciate the sensitivity of the commission to all the information and comments we made," said Marion Waggoner, a board member of Save Our Water.
The commission did a good job of addressing environmental, community, and water-supply concerns, said David Yake, another board member. But the group would have preferred that an independent agency be in charge of monitoring, he said.
Save Our Water leaders said they also will be monitoring the watershed.
The nonprofit also reiterated its desire to have a hotline residents can call in case of a water emergency caused by Artesian's pumping. The plan the commission approved Wednesday did not include the hotline.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D., Chester), who worked with area residents to oppose Artesian's plans for the Chester County well, said Artesian is pumping too much water from the aquifer and said he was disappointed the commission did not limit the amount of water the company can pump.
"I think [the commission] heard some of what we said, but I'm very concerned that it missed the big picture," Dinniman said in a statement.
Dinniman said he will continue to oppose Artesian's project at the Public Utility Commission level.