Eldred residents want facts on water extraction
Phil Getty, hydrogeologist, speaks to Eldred Township residents Monday night at the Kunkletown Fire Company. JUDY DOLGOS-KRAMER/TIMES NEWS
Monday night residents of Eldred Township packed the Kunkletown firehouse to listen to Phil Getty, a hydrogeologist hired by the township, to advise them on the proposed water extraction by Nestle N.A.
Getty, an engineering consultant at Boucher & James Inc., was hired after residents demanded that the township have someone to look after the interest of the residents with regard to the water extraction.
Nestle N.A., under the Deer Park label, has been monitoring a number of test wells, springs and streams running into the Buckwha Creek throughout this year. Up until now Nestle has only been gathering information and assessing the data.
Getty said regulations are in place to protect the water.
"Years ago, a company could come in and run the town dry, but today there are regulatory agencies like the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission that require permits and support communities," Getty said. "It used to be that the agencies were concerned only about the quality of the water, they wanted to make sure that was safe for people to drink, but more recently, and more importantly to those of you here, the agencies now are concerned with the quantity of water as well."
Both DEP and DRBC will review the data provided to them by Nestle as part of the application for a permit to conduct water extraction from the site in Kunkletown. The data will include information gathered during a series of "drawdown" tests to be conducted in October.
"I understand that a number of residents received letters from Nestle requesting permission to monitor their wells during the drawdown test," Getty said. "It is important to do this because as the tests are performed, if a well's water level drops significantly or is impacted by the test, this will determine what is known as the 'area of influence.' That area is generally within 1,000 to 2,000 feet of the extraction point."
"They will then draw a circle on a map and under the requirements of the permit, in the future, any well within the area of influence that has a problem would automatically be deemed to be as a result of the water extraction and Nestle, or whichever company is extracting the water, would be required to step in and correct the problem without question as to who might be responsible."
"Some people received the letters with only a few days to respond," E.J. Kleintop said. "Some didn't get any time to respond, and no one had time to hire an attorney to get advice. We are asking for at least a 30-day notice. What is the rush?"
Getty said the best time to perform the drawdown tests would be when the water levels are at the lowest point. Early fall is best since there is less rain in the summer and much of the summer rain stays on the surface and is used by the vegetation and therefore it does not recharge the aquifer.
Once the rain and snow begin to fall the water levels will rise naturally.
Another round of questions centered on the issue of permitting, and why no permits were required to drill test wells.
Getty said anyone who has the opportunity to have a well monitored by Nestle during the drawdown test should take advantage of it.
People with concerns outside the suggested area might consider purchasing the equipment to do their own monitoring. Getty said a kit costs about $100.
"What if I don't trust Nestle to do the testing?" said Vernon Barlieb. "I have four wells and a number of springs why should I have to foot that cost?"
Getty said he understood why people might not trust the company, but said the residents could trust the data from the Nestle tests.
"Nestle is spending a lot of money on this project and they have a lot of money invested and will continue to invest if they are here," said Getty. "Lying about the data would be like shooting themselves in the foot. If they lie to obtain the permits and in six months they're sucking mud, they then pull out and they have lost all the money they invested, That's not good business."
Getty said the drawdown test would be conducted in three parts. The information will be used to determine the "area of influence," with the water drawn during the test period trucked downstream and returned to the creek.
Eric Andreus, Nestle's hydrogeologist, said the company will extend the time to request the monitoring.
Andreus said people should submit the forms. "We will consider every request that is within a reasonable distance from the test wells."
Getty suggested that a half-mile would be a reasonable distance.
Andreus said he will continue to meet with anyone who has questions at his office in the Eldred community center.
David Kovach, a geologist from the DRBC, told residents an application has not yet been submitted. He said people interested in the matter should send an email to the DRBC.
"We will make a list so that when we have an application on the docket we can notify you of our public meeting and hearing."