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Eldred supervisor can vote on water extraction

Published November 28. 2015 09:00AM

A state ethics says that supervisor Sharon Solt has no conflict when it comes to voting on the issue of Nestle Waters USA setting up a water extraction in Eldred Township.

Nestle, under the Deer Park label, has been testing a location in Kunkletown for a potential 200,000-gallon-a-day water extraction site. The existence of Nestle in the town has polarized the residents, many of whom fear that the company will exhaust the Chestnut Springs, deplete the underground aquifer and cause their wells to run dry.

Solt, whose husband is employed by Nestle Purina PetCare Inc. in Allentown, contacted the State Ethics Commission in July requesting advice on a possible conflict of interest.

Solt wrote to the commission, "A resident has brought it to the board of supervisors' attention that it would be a potential conflict of interest for me to vote on any Nestle Waters Deer Park land development plan applications and any other issues that would arise."

She asked if she is precluded from voting on plans, application or other issues that may come before the board about the Nestle Waters Deer Park water extraction processes.

Also, she asked if she could break any tie.

Solt received a response from the commission chief counsel Robin Hittie in August. According to Hittie, no conflict exists for Solt.

"Your husband is a member of your 'immediate family' as that term is defined in the Ethics Act. Nestle Purina is a business with which your husband is associated in his capacity as an employee. There is no basis in the submitted facts to conclude that either Deer Park or Nestle Waters is a business with which your husband is associated."

Previously, Solt has publicly said that she would abstain from any vote related to Nestle's water extraction.

Solt said she hasn't decided if the opinion would change her mind as to whether or not she would abstain.

Eldred is governed by a three-person board of supervisors. Hittie said Solt could vote to break the tie.

Despite drilling numerous test wells and conducting flow tests, purity tests and drawdown testing, Nestle has yet to file any permit requests or file for a special/conditional use permit before the Zoning Hearing Board.

With the conclusion of the drawdown testing, it is expected that Nestle will be filing an application shortly.

Once Nestle has filed its application, the Zoning Hearing Board will set public meetings and will set forth provisions to regulate Nestle's operations in the township. If Nestle accepts the conditions, the recommendations of the Zoning Hearing Board will be presented to the township supervisors for approval.

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