Aug 23, 2009

A Trained Seal

Although the Wildlands Conservancy is supposedly concerned about the stream health of the Little Lehigh, I haven't heard anything from them about the County's plan to drill two wells next to the creek in Lower Macugnie. Residents of Western Lehigh County, while pumping out their basements from all the rain, are under a water usage restriction. As they watch their garden's rot from the excessive rainfall, they may well wonder what the heck is going on? According to Rob Hamill, writing in The Lehigh Valley Commentator*, the answer can be found in three words; Nestle, Coke and Niagara. These water bottling operations, encouraged to open by Don Cunningham in 2006, have the potential to suck the County dry. Although an agreement for excess water with The City of Allentown was reached, the County is still proceeding with the wells next to the headwaters of the creek. These two wells have the potential to radically lower the water level, threatening the trout population and downstream flow. Sarah Fulton reports in today's Morning Call that the County Commissioners, after granting permission to dig the wells, wants a monitoring program to protect the creek. Apparently Rob Hamill is doing as a citizen what the Wildland Conservancy should be doing as an organization, fighting for the health of the creek. The Conservancy, like a trained seal getting an occasional fish, (grants from the city and county) say such things are not their "focus".

The Lehigh Valley Commentator, P.O. Box 596, Emmaus,Pa. 18049


Anonymous said...

Honest question: How does a well (or in this case, two wells) that draws from groundwater affect a stream? A stream carries runoff while a well draws from another source, below ground.

michael molovinsky said...

"(the) wells located in the upper headwater aquifer of the Little Lehigh Creek for massive 4 million gallon a day withdrawals to feed those water bottling plants".
Rob Hamill

(in the Little Lehigh Aquifer)"groundwater and surface water are closely related, there is not a big separation of the two due to the permeable nature of this Karst aquifer."
hydrologist, The Delaware River Basin Commission

"...the location of the new wells are designed to specifically drain the creek..."
Percy Dougherty, Chairman Lehigh County Commissioners, Ph.D. in geology and hydrology

this is a very complex, political story pitting development needs against conservation. my purpose here is too illustrate how groups such as the wildland conservancy lay down and roll over to insure their cash flow and influence from/with the local establishment.
michael molovinsky

Anonymous said...

This is far more serious than folks might realize. All one needs to do is stand by this stream during a storm and watch the topsoil from once flourishing farms flow by.
Stand at the Little Lehigh in
Allentown's parkway district. The water is thick brown as it flows toward the treatment center.
Folks warned Cunningham two years ago about this risk. He ignored their concerns for what?
His opponent should go door to door in the Macungies and take a public stand against the farming of this water for corporate, and in at least one case, an interneational corporation.
How many European companies would allow a US corp. to come in and
drain their natural resources?

Anonymous said...

I think that you are dead on in identifying the problem here, but I think you might miss the mark by pinning responsibility on the Wildlands Conservancy.

Having, at different times, consulted to different conservation groups around the country (never to Wildlands), I can tell you that every group wishes that they could take an active stand on every issue. Decisions about where to put their resources rarely has to do with political maneuvering, but has to do with making due with limited resources.

I'm sure the Wildlands Conservancy has limited staff, who, at best, are overextended within their areas of expertise, and at worst are overextended trying to gain expertise in new areas of environmental science.

I don't mean this as an insult, but rather as a point of contrast. You blog as a private citizen, and can offer opinions rather freely, whether you are expert in a subject or not. For a staff member of a nonprofit conservancy, their responsibility is to do the exact opposite: only to form opinions on subjects they exhaustively understand.

Additionally, even if an organization wants to devote resources to a new issue, their funding is restricted. Many private donors restrict their donations, and many times when organizations apply for foundation grants they have to identify very specifically how the money will be used. Even if they have water systems experts on staff, their time may be committed elsewhere to fulfill the requirements of a contract.

Anonymous said...

MM -

I have been disappointed in the Wildlands Conservancy on more occasions than I can count. They have become (hopefully by chance and not design) a political body that can easily be bought off by politicians.

My only reason for hoping it is not by design is that in that case the organization can be re-focused by its Board of Directors.

In any event, I would strongly urge your readers to withhold any type of support - particularly financial - from this organization at this time.

LVCI said...

Point is these two wells will be undoubtedly tapping into some of the underground water that feeds Schantz Spring (one of Allentown's sources)

This is in addition to ALREADY 2 million gallons a day we've already agreed to!

Just how much water do you think is down there?

Application No. 3909507, Public Water Supply.
Applicant Lehigh County Authority
Upper Macungie Township
Lehigh County

Responsible Official Aurel M. Arndt
General Manager
Lehigh County Authority
1053 Spruce Street
P. O. Box 3348
Allentown, PA 18106
Type of Facility Community Water System
Consulting Engineer Charles E. Volk, P. E.
ARRO Consulting, Inc.
1150 Glenlivet Drive
Allentown, PA 18106
(484) 664-7310
Application Received Date June 1, 2009
Description of Action: Application for construction of a 2 mgd booster pump station, 24-inch transmission main and interconnection to allow for transfer of water from the City of Allentown's Schantz Spring Reservoir to the LCA distribution system.

LVCI said...

An agreement in principle, which is being called "historic and unprecedented," has been reached between negotiators for the City of Allentown and the Lehigh County Authority for the sale of up to 7 million gallons of water per day from the city to the authority.

And now 2 more wells??

michael molovinsky said...

anon 8:58, i heard a presentation by the wildlands conservancy on how the riparian buffers in the allentown park system will help the flow and trout environment. hamill's rather comprehensive article on the well's indicates that the stream will be threatened at the source. if the conservancy represents themselves as experts at the creek's end (allentown) it should have something to say about the headwater in macgunie.

lvci, hamill's article identifies mr. arndt and cunningham as the main problems. apparently they think the water bottling companies deserve a seat at the decision making table ahead of the citizens.

i will attempt to get mr. hamill to submit a copy of his rather long article to this or another blog as a reference for readers.

Anonymous said...

Dear Person,
"I'm sure the Wildlands Conservancy has limited staff, who, at best, are overextended within their areas of expertise, and at worst are overextended trying to gain expertise in new areas of environmental science. "

We respect your thoughts and they are well taken but in this particular case, we have followed this particular nonprofit for 20 years. Not once can we recall them ever going out on a limb. They have lots of money, lots of donations, lots of volunteers. They play it safe, day in and day out.

Anonymous said...

The Wildlands prints feel good newsletter highlighting canoe trips and hikes and water rafting.
They hide under the table at the first mention of true protection of the region's natural resources.

LVCI said...

I've found my answer about the church street well (WL-12R).. it indeed affects the Little Lehigh!
The project is located in the Allentown Formation in the Little Lehigh Creek Watershed in Lower Macungie Township

Minutes of the Jan. 15, 2009 Lower Macungie Township Meeting Page #5
The current well (WL-12) is 206 feet and draws 350 gal/minute. WL-12R will draw 700 gal/minute. Resident, Robert Hamill, XXXXX Drive North, is concerned about the effects WL-12R will have on the Little Lehigh Creek. WL-12R is 2600 feet from the creek... however according to the current DRBC permit, the withdrawal amounts from WL-8R and WL-12R couldn’t exceed the total amounts that were withdrawn from Wells 4, 7, 8 & 12.

Minutes of the Jan. 15, 2009 Lower Macungie Township Meeting Page #6
Grayson McNair, XXXXX Lane, stated that his testimony for WL-8R also applies to WL-12R. He referenced the Wood Study of 1972, which states that the water goes underground and then resurfaces before reaching the City of Allentown Water Works. Mr. McNair said the wells can be used to determine when the Little Lehigh will go dry, up to several weeks in advance, and is concerned that the water measuring devices being discussed for river flow will not be as effective.

Minutes of the Jan. 08, 2009 Lower Macungie Township Meeting Page #7
Craig Bartholomew, XXXXX Rd., said that you can’t keep taking water out of the ground without an impact. One effect is that Allentown may not have water to sell to LCA.

Robert Hamill, XXXXXX Drive North, has lived along the Little Lehigh Creek for 25 years. He presented a display board with pictures of the creek. A local driller told him that there are private wells in Fogelsville drying up and the Lehigh Country Club’s well went dry. He is concerned that 5 bottling companies will dry up the creek. Mr. Hamill read and submitted a statement he prepared and would like the Township to take a stand against LCA.

Nov. 2008- We're allowing the LCA to have more of the Shantz spring , but in the meantime Allentown applied to the Delaware Basin Commission to increase the surface withdrawal allocation of 4 mgd to 5 mgd from Crystal Springs... BUT... at the same time committed to reducing our total allocation from all sources (Crystal Springs, Schantz Spring, the Little Lehigh River and the Lehigh River) from 39 mgd to 20 mgd.
Page 2

My Point Is..
In effect is Allentown's taking a 19 mgd hit? Are we giving up one of the few economic resources Allentown always had at our fingertips to LCA as I interpret this?

It was explained by one of the Allentown councilmen that this is a break even deal. No profit will be made. Should it be if we gave up 19 mgd in water rights?

Anonymous said...

MM -

I thought the deal was made by the city with the understanding that the wells would not be drilled.

If that is not the case, why would the city enter into a "break even" deal?

Anonymous said...

TO: Anon 8:58

That's a very poor excuse. If we cannot rely on them for something important like this, justification for their existence seems to be problematical. As some other person put it so well, The Wildlands Conservancy should mean something above and beyond having the Morning Call do an 'up close and personal' every year on the WCs canoe trip down the Lehigh starting from above Jim Thorpe. The MC, and the WC, collaborating in this annual feel good, make news thing, strikes me as being all to similar to a columnist from the MC who like clockwork every year, does a vapid piece on "eating one's way through Musikfest". The public is owed something more responsible from these two organizations (the MC and the WC).

Also as one who travels to German- speaking Europe on a regular basis for my vacations, I can assure you that they would NEVER allow a foreign multinational to come in to their backyards and deplete their aquifer for crass commercial purposes. Was there any public discussion about this as evidenced by some serious investigative reported on the part of our glorious Morning Call? (!!) (This is a rhetorical question with an obvious answer).