Culminating a six-year effort from a 20-year-old recommendation by the township Environmental Advisory Committee, Nockamixon has adopted a new groundwater preservation ordinance. The action was taken by a 3-2 vote by the board of supervisors at its Thursday night meeting.
Supervisors Bill Sadow, Dave DiPalantino, and John Haubert voted in favor, and Vince Fleck and Jennifer McCandless voted against. There was no discussion of the motion to approve the ordinance.
“This provides for an equitable distribution of our shared groundwater resource,” summarized Todd Stone, one of the Nockamixon members of the joint Bridgeton-Nockamixon-Tinicum Groundwater Management Committee.
With the water supply issue reaching this stage, the committee’s primary focus now moves to groundwater quality.
In addition to extensive efforts by a variety of township officials; Solicitor Maureen B. Carlton, of Curtin & Heefner LLP; Engineer Steve Baluh, of Wynn Associates LLC, and scientist and lay volunteers from Bridgeton, Tinicum and Nockamixon, the ordinance received input from the county planning commission.
The new ordinance is especially concerned with helping to assure adequate groundwater supplies for all local wells, as individual property owners propose any changes in their use of the common groundwater resource, or sell their property to successors. It is also especially concerned with helping to assure effectiveness of the ordinance in the event of any court challenges.
Officials have emphasized that minor requests for changes in water use, such as for adding a room to a house, would not be burdened by the new proposal, while all cases would be subject to individual testing, instead of being subject to general criteria.
They have also emphasized that the future viability of the use of wells for drinking water in the township was at stake, and that without adequate preservation of the common resource, the township might be forced to enter into a public water connection, which would require large assessments for each property owner to contribute.
The new ordinance is to be in the form of an article added to the township Code of Ordinances, that is to “regulate groundwater withdrawal within the township to ensure the availability of reliable, safe and adequate water supplies to support permitted land uses without casting detrimental impacts to other users by establishing the standards for the hydrogeologic evaluations to be conducted prior to drilling new wells or altering existing wells.”
The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, and the Pennsylvania Second Class Township Code, are cited for support. The township’s bedrock aquifer systems that supply its groundwater are noted to range from only marginal to moderate yielding, with certain units also known to present quality problems, of the sort that municipalities commonly deal with by avoidance or treatment.