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Dump the pump: Revisiting the war over the Point Pleasant Water Project


No issue in recent history has divided Bucks County residents more than the Point Pleasant water project, known familiarly as the “Pump.”

First proposed in the 1960s, the plan was designed to draw 95 million gallons a day from the Delaware River to alleviate droughts, support existing homes and businesses as well as future development, and provide cooling water for Philadelphia Electric Company’s Limerick nuclear power plant.

But when construction commenced in the tiny Delaware River village of Point Pleasant in early 1983, crews were met by hundreds of demonstrators who opposed the Pump. Dozens of demonstrators were arrested and many were jailed. Eventually, opposition to the Pump helped topple the incumbent Bucks County commissioners who approved the project. But after a long and bitter court fight, the Pump was built and today provides water for large portions of Bucks and Montgomery counties.

The fight over the Pump is covered in two chapters of the book, “Notes on Bucks County: Reflections on Politics in Pennsylvania’s Most Curious and Captivating Collar County.” Authors Andy Warren and Hal Marcovitz moderated a forum on the fight over the Pump Sept. 28. The event, “The Political Power Hour: Broken Rocks, Shattered Nerves and the War Over the Point Pleasant Water Project,” was held in the Student Commons at the Perkasie campus of Bucks County Community College. The forum was sponsored by Upper Bucks Campus Students Planning Activities (SPA), the student group that helps bring activities and events to the Perkasie campus.

Panelists for the forum included Richard Myers, former president of Del-AWARE Unlimited, the citizens’ group formed to oppose the Pump; Walt McRee, a former board member of Del-AWARE; Charles H. Martin, a former public affairs officer for Philadelphia Electric Company and former Bucks County commissioner, and Anthony J. Bellitto Jr., executive director of the North Penn Water Authority. The panelists were questioned by Marcovitz, a former Bucks County journalist who covered the Pump controversy for virtually its entire history, and Warren, a former Bucks County commissioner who voted to approve the project.

Part of the discussion focused on lessons learned from the Pump fight and how the leaders of a government underestimated opposition to a huge public works project. Parallels can be drawn between the long and bitter Pump fight and the recent $1.1 billion unsuccessful proposal to sell Bucks County’s public sewage system to Aqua Pennsylvania, a private company. Opponents of the plan—including Bellitto—contend that if public utilities are turned over to private interests, homeowners will see their water and sewage bills spiral upward.

To learn more about the Pump and other issues that have dominated the Bucks County political scene, visit the authors’ website, Readers can find the link to to purchase Notes on Bucks County, which is also available in Bucks County bookstores.