Kutztown Borough’s Water and Wastewater Committee reviewed opposition to New Enterprise’s permit renewal application for Kutztown Quarry at its virtual meeting Oct. 14.
New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co., Inc. submitted an application to DEP to renew its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to pump out of Kutztown Quarry and dump into the Saucony Creek 11.52 million gallons per day.
Lisa Ladd-Kidder submitted for review drafts of comment letters on behalf of the Kutztown Environmental Advisory Commission and Planning Commission to be submitted to DEP’s mining manager.
The letters show that the EAC and Planning Commission strongly oppose New Enterprise’s permit renewal application to DEP for Kutztown Quarry.
W&W agreed to submit the letters to Borough Council, which Council is scheduled to review at its virtual Oct. 20 meeting.
Ladd-Kidder, who says she is a concerned Kutztown resident who values our natural resources, has been following the different issues related to the Kutztown Borough water supply since January 2016.
“The primary issues in this issue are the quantity or amount of our water resources, the quality of our water supply, and the protection of the ecosystem of the Sacony Creek. As you are aware, many of these issues involve the pumping of water from our local aquifer by the Kutztown Quarry, owned by New Enterprise Stone & Lime Company,” explained Ladd-Kidder in an email.
“One thing that was made clear is that there are different sources of information regarding the ‘quantity’ of our water supply that do not agree,” said Ladd-Kidder in her email, referring to the conflicting 2015 and 2017 Spotts, Stevens, & McCoy reports. “The Water and Wastewater Committee's decision to seek a new and complete professional evaluation of our water supply is both prudent and responsible. This new evaluation, since the 2017 change in DEP permit for the Kutztown Quarry, is the necessary first step before making any further recommendations to Borough Council regarding supplying water to new customers outside the Borough.”
The letter cites an evaluation of the watershed and aquifer by geologist Al Guiseppe of Spotts, Stevens, & McCoy in December 2015: “With a 20.5 square mile contribution area, the amount of groundwater available to the Borough wells through the local aquifer is estimated at 10.4 MGD. The average groundwater withdrawal from the Kutztown Quarry over the past three years is 5.87 MGD, or 56.4% of available groundwater during a one-in-ten year drought conditions, such as the condition we are in currently. The Kutztown Quarry is permitted to dewater at a maximum rate of 5,000 GPM, or 7.2 MGD. At this rate, the quarry would withdraw 69% of available groundwater recharge during a one-in-ten year groundwater recharge recurrence interval. The planned deepening of the quarry, to a depth of 300 feet above mean sea level, will result in an increased withdrawal rate to 9,000 GPM (12.96 MPD) which would completely exceed the basin’s estimated one-in ten year groundwater recharge capacity.”
The EAC letter states, “As of 2017, with the quarry's revised DEP maximum dewatering rate of 8,000 GPM , a dewatering increase of 60%, it is clear that the one-in-ten year recharge recurrence for the aquifer is already exceeded by 1.1 MGD, i.e., a recharge deficiency. And, with DEP's allowance for the quarry to lower the mining pit floor another 75', the Borough can anticipate an even greater negative impact to the water reserve, e.g., changes in the amount of groundwater flow, changes in the pattern or direction of groundwater flow, and the lowering of the water table.”
Also, the letter states that the 60% increased rate of pumping from the mining pit since 2017 will draw the PCE (Perchloroethylene) from the "Topton plume" further into the watershed area and/or accelerate its rate of travel toward the aquifer, as well as increase the presence of the neurotoxin in the Sacony Creek.
“There is a concern that this increased pumping presents a real risk to the contamination of our drinking water in the Borough,” the letter states.
The EAC letter states that the 60% increased rate of pumping from the mining pit since 2017 is being dumped into the Sacony Creek via a discharge pipe in Kutztown.
“This increase of water discharge has started to erode one of the creek banks near the discharge pipe, has changed the capacity of the creek to hold storm water, and has at times produced a heavy deposit of sedimentation in the fragile and highly valued ecosystem of Sacony Creek,” the letter states.
The letter cites an example of a heavy sedimentation event, on April 16, 2020 when the creek water was observed to be completely opaque with a heavy grayish-white sediment as far downstream as 1.5 miles.
Kutztown resident Phila Back also added her comments in opposing the quarry permit renewal.
“Five years ago the town rallied to oppose New Enterprise’s application to increase the volume of water it pumps out of its quarry and discharges into the Sacony Creek to 11.5 million gallons per minute,” said Back. “Despite our objections, DEP approved the increase and now New Enterprise is applying to renew that permit. We vigorously opposed it then and we must vigorously oppose it now.”
Another troubling issue is the level of PCE in the quarry is rising, said Back. In addition to these troubling reports is the absence of reports on scheduled dates, she said. New Enterprises, using an outside firm, is in charge for monitoring the levels of PCE in their wells.
“The fox is guarding the henhouse,” said Back. “DEP should be studying the PCE in the watershed and taking action to ensure that it does not contaminate Kutztown’s wells. We should be demanding this in our comments on the permit renewal. We should also be demanding that New Enterprise’s pumping must never be permitted to cause the water in our wells to drop below a safe level.”
Water & Wastewater Comprehensive Plans
Jarrad Burkert, Wastewater Plant Manager, proposed conducting comprehensive plans for the water and wastewater departments at both Kutztown Municipal Authority and W&W meetings, both held via Zoom on Oct. 14.
“I really feel like we need to do a comprehensive plan which identifies the needs of the wastewater facility… and it’s the same thing on water,” said Burkert at the KMA meeting. “It’s not just for the Borough, it’s also for what’s going on in the Township.”
Burkert said the comprehensive plans would layout what’s happening now, what’s happening presently, things that are unfolding and future planning.
“Which I really think is important especially on the KMA side with the ownership things that have been coming up,” said Burkert, referring to Kutztown Borough’s position to not own new lines outside the Borough and instead would be the responsibility of Maxatawny or the property owner to maintain. “This will give us a layout for what we can actually do at our facility, what is feasible to do at our facility.”
The comprehensive plans would give KMA and the Borough a reference for reviewing requests by developers in the future, he said.
“It would really help us in the water end when we have a developer come in, especially in the Township, requesting a certain amount of water,” added Borough Water Plant Manager Troy Smith. “We get a lot of opposition when we try to sell our water outside the town. It would give us a better indication of what our aquifer has… It would be a big benefit to us down the road, especially with all of the development that the Township is planning.”
Noting this is just in the discussion phase, Burkert did not have any estimates on costs or a timeline.