Aug 27, 2009

Water Thieves In Our Community

GUEST POST BY ROB HAMILL, PART 1

In the Winter edition #5 of the L.V. commentator, we broke a story about Lehigh County Authority’s(LCA) plan to drain the Little Lehigh Creek for the benefit of the bottling plants in Fogelsville. The story outlined the very real harm in using wells located in the upper headwater aquifer of the Little Lehigh Creek for massive (4 million gallons per day) withdrawals to feed the water bottlers. This is in addition to the LCA force feeding water hookups since 1966 to every single developer of any sort in Lehigh County through legalized bullying and strong arm tactics.
We have had one of the wettest Junes on record, and LCA put us in a state of residential water emergency, because they refused to cut back the bottlers from taking an extra 3 million gallons per day over the last 2 years.
Think of a government body with no controlling authority and no political ramifications of any action no matter how outrageous and generally harmful to the residents- you have LCA in a nutshell. Here’s our follow up six months later.

THE PLAYERS
-Nestle, Coke, and Niagara are the beneficiaries of the water promised. They have set up bottling operations all over the country, and they are quite good at going through the loopholes for getting bottled water from communities. There is a local “commercial water advisory board” that could recommend the bottlers use less water, but because Mr Arndt appointed a representative from each of the bottlers and nobody else, there is little chance that they will give up any water “rights”. They feel it might be better if dust comes out of residential faucets than to cut back their usage. If you go to Wal Mart in Trexlertown, you can buy water bottles whose listed source is “Lehigh County Authority”, they advertise the bottles as “Great Value”. Maybe our residents could buy a few cases to water their plants without breaking this summer’s LCA water rationing law. Trout in the Little Lehigh might benefit from a bunch of water bottles thrown into the creek too, after all it would just be giving a little back from what is taken.
-Aurel Arndt, the long term head of LCA, promised this bottling plant water back before 2006. This was just before Mr Arndt asked Allentown to subsidize water to the bottlers at a substantial cost to the city. This was justifiably rejected by Allentown, so Mr Arndt stormed out saying~ “Fine, we drill wells then”. This left us residents and our natural resources at the wrong end of a hissy fit by a completely unreasonable LCA head. The benefit of using Allentown water is that there is so much of it, and it is by far the most environmentally friendly option, in that you are not using stream headwater water.
In a recent LMT meeting Mr Reiss asked Mr Arndt (1)who his boss was and (2)who owned the water under LMT? The telling answer was (1)the captive customers were his boss and (2)the commonwealth owns the water under our feet ~(AND I, Mr Arndt, SPEAK FOR THE COMMONWEALTH
Mr Arndt has a long history of pushing public water and sewer relentlessly with no regard for anything else other than the cheapest way to expand his empire. It is as if he sees no difference between the go go 1960’s and the overbuilt, overtaxed, burdened, community we have now. He sees nothing wrong with turning Lower Macungie from a sleepy rural community into the fastest growing municipality in the state because he connected all the developments with water and sewer, and forced the developers, through economics, to build high density developments. Last year, during an expansion of the sewer to western Lehigh County (to service the bottlers), LCA condemned 3 farms rather than using an existing right of way along a railroad track, because it was cheaper. When I publicly objected to this, a few days later, an LCA truck was 4-wheeling in my vernal pools next to the creek under the guise of “checking the sewer line”.
During a recent lot line adjustment that I did on my farm, LCA tried to force me to put another 1600 foot water line down the spine of my property, and in the process, remove a working century old cistern, destroy a standing and viable 250 year old barn, and remove a shed. Luckily the LMT planning commission realized the illegal and reprehensible LCA tactic and sided with me. I objected to the new wells at LMT this past winter along with objecting to the DRBC at the Dec 10th meeting, and a letter to the editor. What is unnerving is that there is no boss above Mr Arndt.
-Mr Cunningham sent his henchpeople to every Lower Macungie meeting on the well issue to give support to the well drilling. Ms Feinberg was quoted last winter as saying ~”We could throw some trout in the (seasonal drainage ditch) Little Lehigh” (when the wells have dried up one of the most prolific limestone trout streams in the state). When the LMT supervisors saw they couldn’t stop the wells, but only put in wellhead and stream protective measures; Mr Cunningham’s staff member, was seemingly overheard saying in a boisterous tone,~ “Well we bitchslapped the treehuggers good this time”. Mr Cunningham can appoint new people to the LCA board of directors, but his staff doesn’t give anyone interested in preserving a famous cold water trout hatchery any hope. I guess mechanized bottlers are more important than fly fisherman, the beautiful riparian ecosystem, Lehigh Parkway picnickers or City of Allentown drinking water users(after, of course, the Little Lehigh has completed its flow). Isn’t a free flowing Little Lehigh Creek the greatest natural gift we can leave our children? Why are we playing Russian Roulette with a potential devastating dry-up of the Little Lehigh? Why did Mr Cunningham back the bottlers over our citizens?

PART 1 OF GUEST POST BY ROB HAMILL

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