West Penn debates proposed amendments to zoning ordinance on water extraction
Proposed amendments to West Penn Township’s water extraction zoning ordinance continue to be deliberated.
The West Penn Township Water Resource & Planning Steering Committee and planning commission met to discuss the issue last week.
Also present were water extraction attorney Jordan Yeager and Lauren Williams, Associate, Environmental Law, Public Sector Law and Employment & Labor Law, from Curtin & Heefner Attorneys at Law, hydrogeologist Phillip Getty, township solicitor Paul J. Datte, township engineer Bill Anders, and township Supervisors Timothy Houser and Ted Bogosh.
Yeager said it was important that the underpinnings of the township be based on “sound science.”
Williams said the draft is still in its beginning stages, and asked what activities the township is most concerned with as far as water extraction is concerned.
Planning commission Chairman Dean Meiser said he believes the main concern is for the residents of the township and the roadways.
Houser also shared his concerns.
“Monitoring is what concerns me most,” Houser said. “What is our ability to monitor as to the amount of usage?”
Getty then spoke of a hydrologic budget that considers usage in the area.
Yeager said an amendment to the township’s zoning ordinance would be the most logical path to follow.
Ted Rosen, chairman of the water resource and planning steering committee, shared his thoughts.
“This is a farming community,” Rosen said. “It’s not so much the number of gallons, but when it’s for commercial uses.”
Datte said the consensus appeared to be that the township will establish regulations in the zoning ordinance to deal with extraction of water from wells between what would likely be 1,000 gallons per day up to 100,000 gallons per day.
He said 100,000 gallons per day figure is the volume that’s regulated by the Delaware River Basin Commission, and will likely establish performance criteria in the zoning ordinance to address those issues.
He said the township will look at truck traffic associated not only with water extraction, but with other larger-scale operations, to attempt to address those issues.
“From here, those recommendations will be conveyed to the board of supervisors,” he said. “At that point, will give whatever direction they deem appropriate to the outside consultants to draft that ordinance.”
Datte said the township was reviewing issues related to the existing ordinance and then reviewing water extraction operations that are already permitted.
Last year, supervisors approved the creation of a Water Resource & Planning Steering Committee to make recommendations to the planning commission about revising the current water extraction ordinance of Dec. 8, 2015.
When the committee met, members made three primary recommendations:
• Water extraction/water harvesting/water withdrawal for sale for human consumption off-premises should be permitted only in the extractive industry, general industrial, light industrial and highway commercial zones.
• The loading stations for filling water into tanker trailers should be located only on a state highway (routes 309, 443 and 895) and tanker trailers should be prohibited from using all township roads.
• They encouraged the planning commission and board of supervisors to retain a lawyer with expertise and experience in water resources and public law to draft the proposed revisions to the water extraction ordinance.