SCBWA board meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.

The State College Borough Water Authority board is likely to vote on an easement request submitted by Toll Brothers/PennTerra on Thursday, May 17 at 4 p.m. at 1201 West Branch Road. Public attendance and comment welcome.

Context information below.


Three risk assessments, five Right to Know requests, three DEP Sewage Planning Module documents, 28 facts and probabilities, with caveats, and three costly contamination scenarios.

Three risk assessments:

Five Right to Know requests, asking for:

  1. Complete, unredacted [SCBWA/UAJA/Ferguson Township/CRCOG/CRPRA] insurance policies, including any and all provisions voiding said policies if the insurer can prove misrepresentation, fraud and/or non-disclosure of risks and/or risk factor reports by the insured entity to the insurer, and/or negligence and/or gross negligence on the part of the insured party during engagement in project siting, design, review, endorsement, approval, permitting, financing, construction, operation and/or maintenance.
  2. Emails, letters, reports, meeting minutes and all other written records relating to legal identification of responsible party and assignment of financial liability for potential public water contamination related to a sewage pump station, sewage transmission pipelines and/or stormwater basins to be located on or adjacent to facilities and/or land owned and controlled by [the public entity] – such records created, transmitted by and/or received by your public entity between Jan. 1, 2015 and the present.

Three DEP Sewage Planning Module documents from 2015:

28 facts and probabilities, with caveats:

  1. The Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors, on November 16, 2015, granted final approval to a Planned Residential Development (PRD) land development plan for construction of a1,093-bed Cottages student housing development, on roughly 46 acres of land then owned by Penn State, but now owned by State College Apartments LLC.
  2. The approved Cottages land development plan did not include a sewage management system for the 1,093 students to be housed at the site.
  3. All but 5.5 acres of the 46 acres were, since 2004, zoned Multifamily Residential (R-4) and, as of November 16, 2015, all but 5.5 acres of the 46 acres were zoned PRD (Planned Residential Development). The remaining 5.5 acres were not made part of the PRD plan, but instead remain outside the PRD and remain zoned Rural Agricultural (RA).
  4. The Cottages development was designed with two large stormwater detention basins sited on those 5.5 acres that are not included in the Planned Residential Development zoning, and are zoned Rural Agricultural, but are still part of the parcel-complex owned by State College Apartments LLC.
  5. The municipal zoning violation – stormwater detention basins as a primary use on RA land – was the subject of a lawsuit (land use appeal) filed by Nittany Valley Water Coalition in December 2015. The Ferguson Township approval was overturned in July 2016 by Centre County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jonathan Grine. Judge Grine’s ruling was reversed in May 2017 by Pa. Commonwealth Court. The Pa. Supreme Court declined a petition for appeal in November 2017.
  6. Under the Terms and Conditions of the Cottages PRD approval by Ferguson Township on November 16, 2015, an executed Stormwater Management Agreement was to be signed and on file before approval of the PRD. As of April 9, 2018, Ferguson Township had no executed Stormwater Management Agreement on file.
  7. Under the Terms and Conditions of the Cottages PRD approval by Ferguson Township on November 16, 2015, sections regarding responsibility for stormwater management facilities refer only to facilities “within the PRD.” However, the two main stormwater management facilities (large detention basins) are located on 5.5 acres that are not “within the PRD.” This strongly suggests that the private owner of the Cottages PRD land (State College Apartments LLC) and their successors are not legally responsible for the maintenance, operation and damages from failure of the stormwater detention basins and resulting public water contamination.
  8. The Centre Region Parks & Recreation Authority submitted a Land Development Plan (LDP) to Ferguson Township for the Whitehall Road Regional Park several years ago. The LDP was withdrawn after several years of delays. There is currently no active LDP submitted to or under review by Ferguson Township. The CRPRA is currently working on design, permitting and construction plans to present to the Centre Region Council of Governments General Forum at General Forum’s late-May meeting.
  9. The WRRP land development is to be funded by taxpayers, through the Centre Region Council of Governments General Forum by way of the CRCOG Parks Capital Committee, through the Centre Region Parks & Recreation Authority, through a Fulton Bank loan.
  10. The Cottages land development is to be funded by private investors, through Toll Brothers, doing businesss as Springton Pointe, doing business as “State College Apartments LLC,” which was incorporated in Delaware on December 13, 2017, through registered agent “The Corporation Trust Agency,” headquartered at 1209 Orange Street, Wilmington, along with about 285,000 other shell corporations as of 2012, according to the New York Times: (“How Delaware Thrives as a Corporate Tax Haven,” June 30, 2012).
  11. After incorporation on December 13, 2017, State College Apartments LLC closed a transaction with Penn State University on December 21, 2017, purchasing the 46 acres for $13.5 million. The deed transfer was recorded December 22, 2017. It’s possible that State College Apartments LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary shell corporation of Penn State University formed to protect Toll Brothers from the financial risks of additional project delays; the names of the directors are not public information.
  12. PA-DEP and UAJA have both approved a “sewage planning module” related to the Cottages + Whitehall Road Regional Park sewage pump station and force main (i.e. uphill) sewage conveyance pipeline. As of February 2015 documents, the sewage pump station, wet well and pipeline were intended to process 46,900 gallons per day of raw sewage from the students living in the Cottages (268 EDUs @ 175 gpd), and 1,050 gallons per day of raw sewage from visitors to the Whitehall Road Regional Park (6 EDUs @ 175 gpd).
  13. The Cottages + WRRP Sewage Pump Station is not proposed to be constructed on private land owned by State College Apartments LLC.
  14. The Cottages + WRRP Sewage Pump Station is proposed to be constructed on public land owned jointly by Centre Region Council of Governments and Ferguson Township – on a portion of 100 acres slated for WRRP development, which is zoned Rural Agricultural (RA).
  15. It is possible – nay, likely – that the Cottages + WRRP Sewage Pump Station and sewage conveyance pipeline – with a combined capacity of 47,950 gallons per day, of which 2% is for park visitors and 98% is for Cottages residents – will be included in a forthcoming Land Development Plan submitted by the Centre Region Parks & Recreation Authority to Ferguson Township for the Whitehall Road Regional Park development.
  16. The Borough of State College has the sewage capacity and has in the past indicated a willingness to accept up to 1,050 gallons per day of WRRP sewage through a gravity (downhill) line conveying the public, park visitor sewage along Whitehall Road to an interceptor near the intersection of Waupelani and Whitehall and from there to the UAJA treatment plant off Shiloh Road.
  17. The Borough of State College has in the past indicated an unwillingness to accept the 46,900 gallons per day of student sewage from the Cottages, preferring to reserve large volume private-development sewage capacity for Borough development, rather than expend it on Ferguson Township development.
  18. Apparently sometime after the Pa. Supreme Court declined to review the Nittany Valley Water Coalition case in November 2017, and the present, the Centre Region Parks and Recreation Authority issued a letter to State College Apartments LLC/Toll Brothers/Springton Pointe and/or the project engineer, PennTerra Engineering, consenting to State College Apartments LLC siting the Cottages + WRRP Sewage Pump Station and associated pipeline on the public land owned jointly by CRCOG and Ferguson Township for the future public park.
  19. Ferguson Township was not notified of the CRPRA planned action or given an opportunity to review or approve the consent action taken by the Parks Authority board.
  20. There is no DEP public notice requirement for sewage systems proposed to increase sewage flows by less than 50,000 gallons per day.
  21. State College Apartments LLC/PennTerra will site, design, fund and construct the Cottages + WRRP Sewage Pump Station and force main conveyance pipeline.
  22. After construction, UAJA will own, operate and maintain the Cottages + WRRP Sewage Pump Station and force main conveyance pipeline.
  23. By email May 10, 2018 in response to a question about “the contingency plan if a sinkhole opens under or near the extra-large wet well at the Toll Brothers pumping station, and breaches the holding tank” upslope and near the two main SCBWA public drinking water supply wellfields (Harter and Thomas) UAJA Director Cory Miller replied: “UAJA does not have a contingency plan for a sinkhole opening under or near this pump station, or any other pump station.”
  24. By email May 11, in response to a question about “the contingency plan if a sinkhole opens under or near the extra-large wet well at the Toll Brothers pumping station, and breaches the holding tank” upslope and near the two main SCBWA public drinking water supply wellfields (Harter and Thomas), SCBWA Director Brian Heiser replied, “There is a plan to address sinkhole issues on the approved Cottages site plan. SCBWA would not necessarily shut down wells because of a sinkhole. Each case would be evaluated as needed.”
  25. State College Apartments LLC is currently seeking an easement from the State College Borough Water Authority board to construct the 4,200-foot force main sewage pipeline uphill and across the edge of 60 acres of SCBWA-owned land fronting Whitehall Road, along Whitehall Road to Stonebridge Drive. The easement would nullify a conservation deed restriction placed on the 60-acre parcel when Penn State sold it to SCBWA in 2008.
  26. All three parcels are topped by thin agricultural soils, underlain by bedrock and fragile – sinkhole and fracture-prone limestone karst
  27. A numbered drainage tributary (intermittent stream No. 23045) to Slab Cabin Run crosses all three parcels: the 46-acre Cottages parcel-complex (R-4 + RA-zoned), the 100-acre WRRP RA-zoned park parcel and the 60-acre SCBWA RA-zoned conservation parcel.
  28. The SCBWA board is likely to vote on the easement request on Thursday, May 17 at 4 p.m. at 1201 West Branch Road.

Three contamination scenarios:

Who will pay the costs of any public contamination resulting from the Cottages + WRRP land developments?

Scenario 1 – Pump station, wet well and force main completed, UAJA begins operations, sinkhole forms under wet well or wet well otherwise malfunctions due to poor siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance; raw sewage enters Harter Thomas wells, public water is contaminated, wells are shut down temporarily or permanently.

Scenario 2 – Pump station, wet well and force main completed, UAJA begins operations, pipeline conveying sewage across SCBWA land to Stonebridge Drive breaks or malfunctions, due to poor siting, design, construction, maintenance and/or operations, raw sewage enters Harter and Thomas wells, public water is contaminated, wells are shut down temporarily or permanently.

Scenario 3 – Stormwater basins completed, Toll Brothers or their successor begins operations/maintenance, sinkhole opens under basins or stormwater basins otherwise malfunction and overflow due to poor siting, design, construction, maintenance and/or operations; unfiltered runoff enters Harter and Thomas wells, public water is contaminated, wells are shut down temporarily or permanently.

Documents

Update – Sewage management planning for Toll Brothers development

State College Borough Water Authority preparing to vote on Toll Brothers April 2018 application for easement to construct sewage pipeline across SCBWA-owned, deed-restricted land. 

5.7.18 Bailiwick News (PDF)

The State College Borough Water Authority (SCBWA) Source Water Protection Committee will be reviewing a Toll Brothers easement application during a closed meeting on Tuesday, May 8.

The full SCBWA board will be voting on the easement application during a public meeting on Thursday, May 17.

Concurrently, Centre Region Parks and Recreation Director Pam Salokangas is preparing to give a status update on the Whitehall Road Regional Park (WRRP) planning process at the May 29 Centre Region Council of Governments (COG) General Forum meeting…

As today’s edition went to press, Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition was preparing a memo to the SCBWA Source Water Protection Committee supporting long-term reduction of public water contamination risks through two proposals.

First, NVEC will propose that the water authority board require – in exchange for SCBWA granting the easement – a legally-binding commitment by UAJA (as the operator of the sewage treatment facilities) and by Penn State, Toll Brothers and Ferguson Township/COG (as owners of the land in the immediate vicinity of the pump station) to forego any and all additional land development in the Zone 2 recharge areas apart from The Cottages and the Whitehall Road Regional Park Phase 1 plan.

If the water authority does not obtain such concessions, the SCBWA board’s action to approve the easement, coupled with the large capacity of the currently-designed sewage treatment facility, exposes the Harter and Thomas wells to the significant and cumulative risks of additional development in the recharge area, while undermining the intended purpose of the 2008 protective covenant.

Second, NVEC will propose that the water authority work with Ferguson Township, Centre Region Council of Governments, and the Centre Region Parks & Recreation Authority to reassign ownership of two parcels, so that the Whitehall Road Regional Park Phase 1 plan can be constructed on a portion of the more level, 60-acre parcel fronting Whitehall Road (currently owned by SCBWA).

If the swap were successful, the sloped, lower 100 acres currently owned by COG and Ferguson Township would be conserved for passive uses and sourcewater protection through reforestation, pollinator plantings, grassland carbon capture, and other ecologically restorative land uses.

Such a land swap has the potential to protect more fragile, more sloped land from excavation, grading and paving, while creating a regional opportunity to strengthen the regional growth boundary…

Partial Transcript – April 19, 2018 SCBWA Meeting

April 19, 2018 SCBWA meeting, transcript excerpts

5.1.18 Bailiwick News (PDF)

At the regular meeting of the State College Borough Water Authority on April 19, 2018, the authority board discussed two topics of particular relevance to community efforts to protect public water supplies at the Harter and Thomas wells and Slab Cabin Run – the focus of a grassroots citizen campaign that is now entering its fourth year.

One of the topics was the proposed Whitehall Road Regional Park, and the other was a proposed easement the water authority may grant to Toll Brothers to install a pipe across deed-restricted SCBWA land to convey sewage from a Penn State student housing development and the park to the University Area Joint (Sewer) Authority treatment plant off Shiloh Road.

Following is a transcription of two sections of the meeting video produced by C-Net.

The first section starts just after a presentation by Centre Region Parks and Recreation Director Pam Salokangas about the proposed Whitehall Road Regional Park, running from roughly minute 46 to minute 60. The second section runs from roughly 1:12 to 1:53. [Editorial notes in brackets.]…

Gary Petersen, SCBWA Board Member

And Cory, if for some reason we had some type of a failure at that site, how do you folks handle that and how quickly is the response?

Cory Miller, UAJA Director

Depends on how fast somebody calls us and lets us know that it’s happening. We do have notification at the pump station, so if we see a drastic change in pressure coming out that’s going through the SCADA [Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition] system, through the, it’s just like your water pumps, so if we see a drastic change in pressure we know something’s wrong out there.

So somebody would get out there. It’s about a 20-minute drive from the plant, for somebody to get out there.

Keep in mind the wet well also has capacity in it. There’s storage capacity in the wet well that we have required and actually overdesigned, so that there’s enough capacity in there so that we have time to deal with these things. So if the force main breaks, we can shut off the force main, shut off the pumps, and fill it into the wet well and simply truck the sewage out of there while we’re working on the force main.

So there should not be a significantly long period of time where you would have sewage going into the ground and into the aquifer. We should be able to detect that pretty quickly, meaning, within an hour or two after it starts. That’s how quick we should be able to fix it meaning stop it, stop the flow, then go out and assess what broke. Did the pipe split? Did a joint fail? Did somebody hit the pipe?

Gary Petersen

So from your experience, with these kinds of failures, you can respond pretty quickly. Has there been any long-term damage, or any damages from past failures? Or is it something we’re overreacting to?

Cory Miller

So, force mains, in the engineering world there’s no such thing as 100% foolproof. There’s always a risk. So a good example of the risk in what happens is our Scott Road pump station. So it’s another long force main coming up from Pine Grove Mills. That force main has broken. It failed at a joint and it failed at another spot where it wasn’t a joint. So we had two opp–, two times where that pump station failed.

It was diagnosed relatively quickly. The first time it took a little bit longer because it was in the middle of a snowstorm and we couldn’t find the spot. We knew something was going on but we couldn’t find it. It took a little bit longer but during that period of time we were hauling the sewage up the hill. So we had pump trucks hauling it up there.

The second time we noticed it fairly quickly because again, we noticed it on the SCADA system, that the pressure at the pumps was way out of whack. Why was it out of whack? The only reason it can be out of whack is because something stuck in the line or the line broke. So we found it and fixed it.

Those — that line also happens to be within your Zone 2 wellhead contribution area.

Jeff Kern, SCBWA Board Chair

Right. Exactly.

Cory Miller

And that is not the type of pipe that – it is the PVC pipe. So that’s why we think it’s better with the HDPE pipe. If we had that one to do all over again we would be putting in HDPE pipe…

Reminder – Spring Creek Watershed Commission Forum Tomorrow

Spring Creek Watershed Commission Forum on Understanding and Stewarding Water Quantity and Quality in the Spring Creek Watershed 

Date/Time/Location for Facilitated Forum:

Overview:

The Spring Creek Watershed Commission offered to convene a forum on understanding and stewarding water quantity and quality in the Spring Creek watershed. The purpose of this forum is to bring people together to identify issues and think about what the future might look like for the Spring Creek watershed. This initial forum will help set the stage for additional work in 2018 and beyond on a watershed plan for Spring Creek.

All are welcome; if you are planning to attend, please RSVP online to ensure we have enough seats, handouts, and food.

This will be a facilitated forum led by Professor Lara Fowler and her law students who are enrolled in an environmental mediation course at Penn State Law. They will be conducting a series of interviews in advance of the forum; if you are interested in talking with them, please contact Lara Fowler at lbf10@psu.edu.

Draft Agenda (subject to change):

6:30 PM – Welcome, Pledge of Allegiance- Denny Hameister, Chair, Spring Creek Watershed Commission

6:40 PM – Purpose of forum, review breakout group process- Lara Fowler, Penn State Law

6:50 PM – Facilitated breakout groups- facilitated by Penn State Law students

  1. What issues or challenges do you see for the future of the Spring Creek watershed?
  2. What is your vision for Spring Creek watershed in 10-15 years?
  3. What steps might be needed to get from where we are now to where you would like the watershed to be in the future?
  4. What does watershed planning look like to you, and how do you or others want to be involved in the watershed?
  5. Other?

7:50 PM – Report back from breakout groups, discussion

8:30 PM – Discussion of next steps

8:45 PM – Wrap up

Opportunity to Participate Online Through Placespeak

In addition, we have created a way for people to participate in these questions through Placespeak.

Follow the instructions for creating a profile and logging into the discussion.

Contact information and data gathered through this online process will be used only to invite you to further discussions and to inform the Watershed Commission’s future watershed planning process.

Nestle not taking over Spring Township PW-2

Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition & Sierra Club Moshannon Group Press Release

April 17, 2018  – Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition and the Sierra Club Moshannon Group wish to thank our community for standing with us against Nestle Waters’ proposed plan to take millions of gallons of water from our aquifer and ship it out of the Spring Creek Watershed. Nestle reported yesterday that “… we have decided not to proceed with STWA [Spring Township Water Authority] Well 2 and instead to continue to look for sources elsewhere.”

Nestle’s decision is a victory for democracy.

If Nestle should attempt to take water from our aquifer elsewhere in Centre County, we will be there to fight back.

Contact: Terry Melton, NVEC, 814-883-8154, terrymelton321@gmail.com


Eric Andreus’ Press Release

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Andreus,Eric,Breinigsville, NWNA T&P MID Springs <Eric.Andreus@waters.nestle. com>
Sent: Monday, April 16, 2018, 4:31:01 PM EDT
Subject: Nestlé Waters project update

Good afternoon,

Over the past year, Nestlé Waters has revised the process of how we approach sourcing spring water. Guided by our new Siting Framework, we approached the Spring and Benner Township community much earlier in our due diligence process than we typically have in the past. At the same time, we continued to conduct our due diligence and water source evaluation.

We have spent the last few months in the early stages of our thorough scientific review to evaluate whether Spring Township Water Authority Well 2 had the potential to become a water source for our Deer Park® brand. As part of that review, we consider many factors, including the quality and taste of the water, what the science tells us about the hydrogeology and sustainability of the site, the local watershed, the logistics of transporting the product to the market, and much more.  Our rigorous process means that we evaluate far more potential sources than we ever decide to use. The majority do not meet our needs.  At this point in the process of considering the source, we have decided not to proceed with STWA Well 2 and instead to continue to look for sources elsewhere.

We sincerely appreciate that many people in the community welcomed us so warmly and embraced our proposed project. This support is one of many reasons that Centre County remains a leading candidate in our search for a third Pennsylvania bottling factory location, with 50 jobs and an initial investment of $50 million.

We remain optimistic that we can find a source here in northern Centre County so that we can bring jobs and investment to the area in the near future. We will continue to be available in our Centre County office and by phone and email, and we hope that residents who know about other potential spring sites we should consider will reach out to us.

Please feel free to reach out to me in the coming days and weeks. We remain hopeful that there will be another opportunity to do business in this community in the future, and I look forward to continuing to work with community leaders to make that happen.

Sincerely,

Eric Andreus, P.G., Natural Resource Manager, Deer Park Natural Spring Water, Nestle Waters North America


Centre Daily Times

Contact CBICC

The Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County has been involved in encouraging Nestle to site a water bottling plant in Centre County, purchase public water at $4.75 per thousand-gallons and export the water for private sale at about $7,500 per thousand-gallons. (See, for example, E-mail 12E-mail 13Email re Jan. 4 meetingE-mail 17. No minutes were kept for these meetings, despite the presence of elected and appointed government officials. 3.23.18 N. Corman RTK Letter3.23.18 N. Corman RTK Affidavit)

CBICC is also promoting the project at its website landing page.

If you’d like to let CBICC leaders and members know what you think of the plan, and CBICC’s use of taxpayer funds to support it (through municipal annual dues for CBICC “government” memberships), you can comment at CBICC’s Facebook page.

For reference, here’s a list of CBICC executives and board members:

  • Vern Squier, President & CEO
  • Jennifer Myers, Vice President, Economic Development
  • John Sepp – PennTerra Engineering, Board Chairman
  • Bob O’Donnell – SCASD Superintendent, Board Vice-Chairman
  • David Gray, PSU Vice President for Finance and Business, Board Secretary
  • Bill Kelly, Baker Tilly, Board Treasurer
  • William Joseph, First National Bank
  • Betsy Dupuis, Babst Calland
  • Mark Morath, Hospitality Asset Management Co.
  • Cristin Long, McQuaide Blasko
  • OJ Johnson, OJ Johnson Consulting
  • Tom Fountaine, State College Borough Manager
  • Ted McDowell, Ameriserv Bank
  • Barb Bowker, PSECU
  • Tammy Gentzel, Centre County United Way
  • Richard Makin, Central PA Institute for Science and Technology
  • Michael Pipe, Centre County Commissioner
  • Adam Brumbaugh, College Township Manager

April 18 – Watershed Forum

Please find attached a flyer related to the April 18, 2018 watershed forum.

This forum is being convened by the Spring Creek Watershed Commission, and facilitated by a Penn State Law environmental mediation class being taught this semester as a Sustainable Communities Collaborative project.

As noted in the flyer, the goal for the forum is to better understand participants’ perspectives on current water-related topics; what they might imagine for the future; how we might get from the present to the future; and how people might wish to engage in watershed planning.

By using facilitated breakout groups to allow people time to really discuss these topics, the watershed forum will help start a longer watershed planning process being conducted by the Spring Creek Watershed Commission.

Details for the April 18, 2018 forum are below, and in the attached flyer.

  • Wednesday, April 18, 2018, 6:30–8:45 PM (light refreshments will be served)
  • Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science (CPI), 540 N Harrison Rd, Bellefonte, PA (parking is free)
  • RSVP online to ensure we have enough seats, handouts, and food

All are welcome to participate in the discussions; please feel free to invite others who may also be interested.

In addition, interested people are invited to learn more about the Spring Creek Watershed and to participate in an online discussion forum through a program called “Placespeak.”

The vision of Placespeak is to allow people to make a meaningful impact on the communities in which they live, work and play. Penn State has paid for a subscription to this program to allow more people to participate in the discussions; to register and participate, see

Let me know if you have questions, and in the meantime, many thanks for helping spread the word.

Lara Fowler

Senior Lecturer, Penn State Law
Assistant Director for Outreach & Engagement
Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment

Andrew McKinnon Remarks to Ferguson Township Supervisors – April 2, 2018

Liability for water contamination: who will pay?

On April 2, the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the Steckler Petition:

“We, the undersigned, believe the Harter and Thomas Wellfields have been put unnecessarily at risk to pollution by the selling of Penn State University land, at Whitehall Road, to the Toll Brothers Developers, in order to build student housing, to be known as “The Cottages at State College.” Since the acreage being developed is directly upland of these wells, and the geology is known as karst topography, the likelihood of runoff, regardless of detention and infiltration basins, seems probable as we enter into an era of extreme weather events due to Climate Change.

Therefore, we respectfully request Ferguson Township require written confirmation, prior to construction, that PSU and Toll Brothers are to be held financially responsible, in perpetuity, for any pollution to these wells directly attributable to the Cottages Development. And that the residents/taxpayers/rate-payers of Ferguson Township would not bear the financial burden should our water be rendered polluted by this development, which was pushed forward unguided by the Precautionary Principle and despite citizens concerns and actions of dissent.”

Ferguson Township Resident Andrew McKinnon presented the following remarks:

Against widespread public opposition to the Cottages development, Penn State has chosen to forge ahead with plans to develop 44 acres of prime farmland and breathtaking scenery while placing the State College water supply at risk.  These are resources rightfully allocated to the public trust, but Penn State not only insists on destroying the landscape but also claims it has no liability in the event the water is contaminated. This hands off position – essentially a “have our cake and eat it too” attitude – that is, we’ll accept all the benefits of development but assume none of the risks, must be confronted.

In this spirit I would like to briefly describe the hydrogeological risks to the State College water supply posed by the Cottages development in order to emphasize that Penn State and its developer, Toll Brothers, must be held financially accountable if activities associated with the site pollute our drinking water.

I have a B.S. in Geology and worked for 12 years in hydrogeology in the Centre Region.  It is well known that the Nittany Valley is underlain by fractured carbonate rock, that is, limestone and dolomite, and the primary way that water flows through such rock is via fractures and conduits.  Surface evidence of this karst terrain is in the form of caves, sinkholes and other closed depressions, as well as fracture traces, which are usually seen as linear features on aerial photographs.

The Cottages is to be located in the Zone 2 wellhead protection area, and therefore in the recharge zone, for the Thomas and Harter wellfields that supply two thirds of the drinking water for State College.  The site lies about one mile upgradient from the Thomas wellfield and one and a half miles upgradient from the Harter wellfield. Dye trace studies suggest that water, and thus water borne contaminants, could travel 300 or more feet per day from the site to the wells, thereby potentially reaching them in a matter of weeks.  Potential contaminants from the site include oil, gasoline, grease, glycol, deicing agents, chemical spills, and coliform bacteria.

A prominent fracture trace has been mapped on the site.


Portion of Figure 3, p. 76, 2007 State College Borough Water Authority Source Water Protection Report – Dashed lines are fracture traces. Diamonds are sinkholes. Triangles are public water wells.


Part of it manifests as the swale that runs across the site downslope from Whitehall Road.  This swale is quite close to where the basins for stormwater captured from the site have been placed.  Because of the way such basins are constructed, such as through compaction of soils and therefore decreasing the number of natural pores in the soil, contaminated stormwater could become channeled and enter the swale, percolate downward into the groundwater system, and flow southeast toward the Thomas and Harter wellfields.

Alternatively, stormwater could flow into existing sinkholes (several have been mapped in the vicinity of the site) or create new sinkholes and enter the groundwater system.  Indeed, the significant alteration of topography and soils at the site through grading, increasing the amount of impervious surfaces, and channeling of stormwater flow increases the risk of sinkhole formation, providing direct avenues for contamination to enter the subsurface.  Finally, risk is elevated because even if the soils on the site are not altered through compaction or other disturbance, they are generally thin in this area and therefore have limited filtration capacity. Also, the depth to bedrock is shallow, allowing contamination to reach the groundwater system relatively quickly.

In conclusion, I am concerned that activities associated with development or operation of the Cottages puts our drinking water at risk.  This is in addition to the guaranteed destruction of open space, farmland, and scenery enjoyed by residents, many of whom may have come to the area because of these natural attractions.  Unfortunately, it may be too late to save the land, but at least we can save our water. I respectfully ask you to hold Toll Brothers and Penn State accountable for any degradation of our drinking water.


Additional reporting in April 8, 2018 Bailiwick News – 4.8.18 Bailiwick News (PDF)

 

David Roberts Rebuttal to Dan Hawbaker Advertisement

By David Thomas Roberts, Resident, Benner Township

I wish to respond to Dan Hawbaker’s paid advertisement in the Centre County Gazette, published April 5, 2018 (p. 4) regarding Nestle’s proposed water bottling plant.

I was born in Centre County in 1952 and I am also concerned about the direction we are heading.

I do not own a large construction company and I do not stand to gain a large contract to build Nestle’s bottling plant.

However, I am a well-informed citizen with serious concerns about the move to extract large volumes of water from the Gatesburg karst limestone aquifer for commercial gain.

Hawbaker’s statement that “segments of the County are relying on emotion, opinion, and careless rhetoric” – to describe what is actually an attempt at healthy debate by concerned public citizens with many relevant questions – is less than ingenuous.

Hawbaker himself stated a few opinions and may be using careless rhetoric.

Impacts on Logan Branch are key

Hawbaker repeated a statement from Nestle that they will withdraw an equivalent of only three tenths of one percent of the water flowing through Spring Creek as measured at the Milesburg US Geological Survey stream gauge. There is truth in that statement. However, that statement is very misleading.

The real impact will be to Logan Branch, which is a gaining stream that receives its baseflow from cold water springs that are fed through fissures in the Gatesburg limestone formation.

Stream baseflow studies in the Susquehanna River Basin Commission’s 1997 report indicate the groundwater baseflow into Spring Creek averages 88% of the stream’s total flow. Similar average baseflow of 88% may be assumed for Logan Branch. Therefore, any reduction of the groundwater baseflow to Logan Branch will have significant impact on the total flow of water in Logan Branch.

Median stream flow in the lower Logan Branch near Bellefonte is highest during March, at about 140 cubic feet per second (cfs). However, during summer months the Logan Branch stream flow is only about 60 cfs or less.

Logan Branch stream flows at Pleasant Gap range from about 50 cfs to 15 cfs. This evidences the fact that Logan Branch gains a large amount of flow as it progresses toward Bellefonte.

The minimal testing done for the Spring Township Water Authority (STWA) “Cerro Well/PW-2” – the well producing the water Nestle proposes to bottle and export – was done during March, when Logan Branch is at its highest.

No testing has been done (or if it’s been done, it hasn’t been released to the public) during hot summer months with low water levels, when brook trout in local waterways are endangered by temperature exposure above 70° Fahrenheit (F).

The groundwater baseflow from the Gatesburg aquifer provides inflow of 50° F cool water, maintaining the habitats critical for brook trout to survive.

Logan Branch data from the Navitus stream gauge at the old Cerro Plant – now Titan Energy Park – and at the ClearWater stream gauge closer to Bellefonte, are cited in the STWA hydrology report for the Cerro Well/PW-2, prepared by Jim Casselberry.

The Casselberry study reported water levels of about 0.5 feet at the Navitus gauge and about 1 foot at the ClearWater gauge. The water depth in Logan Branch increases by a factor of two between these two gauges, which fairly well bracket the potential impact area to baseflow caused by water withdrawal from well PW-2, indicating there could be significant impact to Logan Branch stream levels.

I must emphasize again, there has been no baseflow evaluation of Logan Branch in the published STWA/Casselberry reports.

Comparisons with prior large-scale withdrawals

In his Gazette piece, Hawbaker repeated another statement from Nestle: that Nestle will only use a quarter of the water Corning-Asahi once used. Again, there is truth in this statement and again, it’s very misleading.

Corning withdrew water from large defined surface springs, as did Cerro Metals.

Nestle, however, proposes to withdraw water from a large-bore 650-foot-deep well: much larger and more than twice as deep as most local wells.

The effect of water withdrawal from karst limestone aquifers is notoriously difficult to determine due to fractures, channels, caves, and underground rivers. Deep karst limestone wells with large rates of water withdrawal have a definite effect on the hydraulic gradients within an aquifer, and these changes in the natural water flow can have unexpected and dramatic effects on surface springs and the baseflow of water into gaining streams.

Very little to no significant test data has been made publicly available to enable a serious public determination of the impact that the withdrawal of 260 million gallons of water per year – or more – from the Gatesburg aquifer will have on Logan Branch’s baseflow and the native brook trout that depend on the cold water habitats the karst limestone springs provide.

The Casselberry hydrology report certainly does not address this question.

There are recognized and established techniques and methodologies to make critical impact assessments of water withdrawal from aquifers that supply water to gaining steams such as Logan Branch. These assessments are not a usual part of local hydrology studies, but they should be if we wish to determine the true impact of consumptive water use in our local aquifer and surface stream systems.

Natural resources are limited

Hawbaker stated he believes Centre County has “vast natural resources.” Yes, Centre County has resources that have helped make Pennsylvania the Keystone State.

However, many of those resources are now depleted. I live in Valley View Village, a few miles from the well under discussion, and within a stone’s throw of huge pits that once held valuable limestone. That limestone is gone, the jobs are gone, and we are left with huge dangerous pits hundreds of feet deep.

We once had iron, copper, and valuable timber. Those “vast resources” are now also gone. All natural resources are limited.

Economic impact of fishing industry

Hawbaker further stated that the economic impact of the Nestle plant is important, but he made no mention of the economic impact to the local fishing industry if Logan Branch overheats in the summer or runs dry in a prolonged drought due to a reduction in baseflow.

The beauty of our natural limestone gaining streams and our native brook trout population is one of the big attractions to residents and to retirees thinking of moving to Happy Valley.

Responsible resource management

Hawbaker also stated that “Utilized properly and responsibly, these resources can continue to support individuals, families, and communities in Centre County.”

I agree with him completely.

The proper and responsible utilization of our resources is exactly what hundreds of local citizens are calling for.

Claims about public opinion

I don’t see where Hawbaker has found a majority of people in favor of the Nestle plant.

However, I have seen more people than can fit in a local water authority meeting room, all very opposed to the Nestle plant.

Water rights

Hawbaker remarked that “Nestle waters would…not independently own or control any water rights.”

But there are many communities in the United States and around the world that have challenged Nestle’s control of water rights when they found their wells and their streams running dry, and immediately ran up against Nestle’s huge staff of corporate lawyers who have convinced many courts that Nestle does control water rights.

Nestle wants to withdraw over twice as much water as the Spring Township Water Authority currently withdraws. STWA withdraws about 120 million gallons of water per year for local use. Nestle will withdraw over 260 million gallons of water per year for consumptive use. There is a significant difference.

At 650 feet deep, the new Cerro Well/ PW-2 that Nestle wants to use is the biggest and deepest well around and is about 50 feet deeper than the STWA Carles Well/PW-1.

Most local private wells are about 300 feet deep or less. If wells or streams start running dry, Nestle will not stop pumping water, since they are in a billion dollar per year water bottling business.

Conclusion

If my statements seem to be “relying on emotion, opinion, and careless rhetoric,” then shame on me.

If the County rushes ahead to approve the Nestle plant without a thorough public vetting and a thorough and critical analysis of impact, then shame on all of us.