Opinion

Their View: Ferguson Township âcommitted to clean waterâ™

Ferguson Township supervisors released an open letter Tuesday to township residents and customers of the State College Borough Water Authority:

Recently, a number of citizens have expressed concerns over our drinking water and the potential effects of development on water quality. Because the township shares these concerns, township engineers and consultants have been working with the developer and with engineers representing the State College Borough Water Authority for more than a year to insure the protection of our water resources. We have received many comments from the State College Borough Water Authority and incorporated them into the plan for The Cottages at State College. The stormwater management design of the Planned Residential Development has changed significantly as these recommendations have been addressed.

Water resources are very important to the township. The mission statement of the township is: “Manage resources to allow planned sustainable growth while preserving the quality of life and its unique characteristics.” Water is one critical resource the township strives to preserve. Among other measures to protect water, the Board of Supervisors has in recent years enacted a ridge overlay ordinance that limits development to protect water recharge areas on mountain slopes and enacted a riparian buffer ordinance to protect streams from sediment and pollutants and enhance stream cooling through appropriate vegetation. Our township stormwater ordinance meets and exceeds current PA Act 167 requirements to control stormwater runoff and implement best management practices for water quality. The borehole ordinance assures that drilling of wells for potable water and for geothermal use do not affect our groundwater quality. Agricultural conservation easements used to acquire development rights have been purchased along with implementing an agricultural security area to keep most of the township rural. The township took a leading role and provided significant financial resources to partner with the ClearWater Conservancy, State College Borough Water Authority and other municipalities to purchase the Musser Gap lands, which have direct groundwater sources to the Harter/Thomas Wellfields. Within the recharge area of the Harter/Thomas Wellfields, an area of 100 acres has been preserved as a regional park.

There have been calls for the Board of Supervisors to prevent any development on this site but the zoning on the property allows for multi-family residential development at a density greater than that proposed by the current developer. The township is working closely with the water authority to scientifically evaluate the design and methodology planned to construct the stormwater management facilities. Even in its current state, there are many existing “potential” impacts to groundwater due to the geology of the area, including contamination from agricultural chemicals and activities. As we consider a proposed use of the land, we have to ask whether this development poses any greater threat to the groundwater and drinking water supplies and if all appropriate considerations have been implemented in the stormwater design. The township is always looking for the best solution for residents, the water authority and its customers, the landowners and the township within the constraints of township and state law. The township is committed to clean water. As customers of the water authority, we all drink the water from these wells and other water sources in the water authority system.

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