Milford must trust Dingman Township

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:28

    Zoning change could impact borough’s drinking water supply MILFORD - Borough officials Monday concluded that some of the responsibility for protection of Milford’s water supply must be left to its neighbors. The issue came up with a letter from the Dingman Township Supervisors outlining proposed zoning changes that would allow expanded commercial development along U.S. Route 6. Drainage in the area impacts the springs supplying borough drinking water. Increased stormwater and parking lot pollutants are a concern for officials. The Dingman letter also revealed that the township is reviewing its stormwater management ordinance with an eye toward additional requirements to protect the watershed. A public hearing on the zoning changes is scheduled for Sept. 26. Despite the concerns, Borough President Matthew Osterberg said the borough’s options are limited to buying all the sensitive properties or depending on Dingman to protect its interests. The borough water company supplies water for 652 dwellings from two springs that arise from the Sawkill Creek watershed. The watershed includes some 22 square miles in Dingman, Westfall and Shohola townships, but Tom Hoff, vice-chairman and spokesman for the authority, says the area being considered for rezoning contains some of the more sensitive areas for the springs. Hoff told the borough council Monday that a new source water study delineated three risk levels to the springs across the watershed. The highest risk is pollution directly to the springs, a lesser risk to the immediate surrounding area and the least over the majority of the remaining watershed. A portion of the area to be rezoned is in the middle-risk category. Hoff said he was delighted that Dingman planned to review the township’s stormwater ordinance, and said he would appreciate Dingman’s providing an opportunity for the borough to review any significant construction. “We’re not opposed to the zoning change, but we are concerned with the wider management and infiltration issues,” Hoff said. He also spoke with concern about the impacts of a change. In that area, according to Hoff, parking lot runoff would be directed to recharge basins directly over a sand and gravel aquifer. “It’s highly permeable. Things move more rapidly through it. That is a concern. Things might happen — gas and pesticide spills are of some concern.” Hoff had arrived at the council session following an authority meeting, but environmental activist and Dingman resident Vito DiBiasi already introduced the issue of the zoning change, pressing the council to oppose it. DiBiasi has approached the council about the similar water qualitiy issues in past, but Osterberg has repeatedly deferred to Hoff and the water authority as the borough’s experts on the question. Hoff said the greatest risk, the thing “that could put us out of business, would be a truck load of gasoline going over a bridge into the Sawkill.” He said the borough has planned some alternatives and stop-gaps in the event of a catastrophic pollution issue. The authority could quickly draw from the nearby VanTyne Creek in an emergency and the authority stores water in two old reservoirs in an addition to a 500,000 gallon storage tank. “Along with rationing, that would get us through a week or so,” he concluded. In the longer term, water could be taken from another watershed. The borough currently takes 175,000 gallons daily from the one million gallons the springs produce. In time, the springs would cleanse themselves. Shohola resident Denise Palmeri asked if the borough was not putting too great a reliance on Dingman for its protection. She said that she and other county residents have relocated to Pike County in part because of Milford’s lifestyle and atmosphere. She said a threat to the water supply would change that. “It looks to me as if a two-mile strip is being changed and you’re asking them not to forget about us. What if they do forget?” “We can’t tell them how to rezone without buying the land,” Osterberg said. “We need to trust that municipality ... that the water company will be part of the discussion if someone wants to build a truck stop; that they’d call us first.” “I don’t trust that Dingman Township doesn’t have it’s own dynamics,” another man said. “We don’t have that luxury,” replied Councilman James Price. Palmeri said that from the discussion, it appeared as though the board had already made a decision “and you’re not inclined to be opposed.” DiBiasi claimed that the borough was stepping back from a position it had taken two years ago, opposing extensive development. Given a choice, Price said, the borough would rather that nothing was built on the land, but he added that it was not an option. Soliciator John Klemeyer suggested that the worse case was all that was under discussion and experts had already reviewed it. “Why is there going to be a catastrophe? he asked. “What are we going to do, ban traffic on Route 6?” Osterberg suggested that DiBiasi’s argument was with his own township. “You’re a Dingman resident. Why don’t you sue them?” he said. Dingman’s public hearing on zoning change will be at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 25, at the township building.