Milford Twp. must accept the scientifically delineated Milford Aquifer

| 11 Mar 2024 | 01:59

    After the mega warehouse application was withdrawn, negotiations between Milford Twp. and the Milford Water Authority (MWA) began in January with a follow-up meeting scheduled for March 14, 2024. The language used by Planning Commissioner Kevin Stroyan and the way he is leading this discussion are encouraging.

    This is a positive step on the road to protecting the Milford Aquifer. Work on strengthening their ordinances concerning mega warehouses is also very promising.

    However, I am concerned about Milford Twp. Supervisor Rachel Hendrick’s comments at the January meeting, like: 1.) “How deep is too deep to dig in the aquifer,” 2.) “We need studies to determine just what could be placed on that site,” and 3.) “Developers would love this kind of information.”

    Rachel et. al. still believe substantial development is appropriate on top of the delineated Aquifer Zone. Wanting more studies demonstrates they do not believe in the science that Ph.D. hydrologist Todd Giddings used in formulating the MWA Source Water Protection Plan (SWPP) that delineated that zone.

    It is deeply troubling that some of the Milford Twp. officials, planning solicitor Tom Farley, and uncertified planner Tom Shepstone still think the science behind the MWA SWPP is inconclusive — calling it a teaching document only. Likewise, they call for a “balanced approach,” — code words for major development.

    If they did believe in this taxpayer-paid-for study, Milford Twp. would have incorporated the delineated aquifer zone in the mapping and body of their 2023 Shepstone Water Protection Ordinance. Conversely, this zone is front and center in the Dingman Twp. Water Protection Ordinance.

    What “standing” do these public servants have to question the authenticity of Ph.D. hydrologist Todd Giddings’s work and the rigorous scientific guidelines — set up by the EPA and PA DEP Wellhead Protection Program — through which the SWPPs were administered?

    For these negotiations to continue on a good faith basis, Milford Twp. must accept the science behind the MWA SWPP that says “the second most dangerous threat to the springs (after tanker truck spills) is large commercial development at the I84/Rt.6 Interchange.” Like Dingman Twp., almost every other municipal water protection ordinance across the Commonwealth of PA is built around these wellhead protection program findings. For continuity of governance, Milford Twp. must do the same.

    There is ample historical and scientific evidence proving the connection between the delineated aquifer zone and the Milford Springs, from: 1.) the MWA SWPP, 2.) multiple conclusive scientific chemical tracer tests, 3.) the mining operation on Schocopee Rd. that was terminated because it was damaging the springs, and 4.) PennDOT paying the town of Milford a substantial sum for damaging their springs during the construction of I-84.

    Further corroborating evidence comes from: 5.) the PA DNRC study by Princeton Hydro, called the Sawkill Creek & Vandermark Creek Watershed Conservation Plan, 6.) a letter from USGS Research Geologist Earl Verbeek, 7.) testimony from DRN biologist Faith Zerbe, 8.) a letter from the Delaware Riverkeeper — Maya K. van Rossum, plus, 9.) guidance from the PA Municipal Planning Code, 10.) model water protection ordinances provided by Charley Schmehl from the Urban Research & Development Corporation, Bethlehem, PA, and 11.) a model ordinance from sustainability advocates — PennFuture.

    Like “water is wet,” the taxpayers/ratepayers do not have to reprove facts that have already been established from extensive credible sources. At the March 14 meeting, if certain Milford Twp. officials continue not to believe in the authenticity of this evidence, then the comprehensiveness and legitimacy of these discussions can be called into question.

    Why should the MWA delegate resources to further studies — just because of Milford Twp.’s intransigence? The MWA is already strapped for funds due to having to fight the mega warehouse. To close their funding gap, they must raise their rates by 15%.

    The ratepayers of the MWA and taxpayers of Pike County should not pay a dime more just because some Milford Twp. officials cannot accept rigorous science and the reality of the situation at hand.

    Vito DiBiasi

    Friends of the Milford Aquifer

    Dingman Twp.