Testimony continues in water withdrawal hearing

In a third conditional-use hearing for a water withdrawal project in Old Lycoming Township held Wednesday night, the municipality’s zoning officer charged that a civil engineer didn’t hold the “expert witness” status he was granted and said he failed to provide adequate information in Centura Development’s application to the township.

Township Zoning Officer Forrest Lehman said that Todd Colocino, a project engineer with Blazosky Associates Inc., of State College, who was hired by Centura Development to develop plans for a water withdrawal facility at 3231 Lycoming Creek Road, failed to include important and necessary information in paperwork for the plan.

Lehman said Colocino’s lack of experience in preparing conditional-use applications and his prior work that focused more on land development should disqualify him as an expert to testify about how the project – which would serve the local Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling industry – would impact residents.

“I’m not going to undo the determination that he is an expert. He has already been qualified as an expert,” said J. David Smith, township solicitor, who also is serving as hearing moderator.

The project, if approved, would withdraw up to 250,000 gallons of water a day from the Lycoming Creek watershed at a pumping site at the Marcellus Operations Center along Lycoming Creek Road.

Several residents – many of whom say they have shallow wells – have complained that the quality and quantity of their well water is at stake if the water is taken from the watershed.

Bimbo Bakeries, 3375 Lycoming Creek Road, also has expressed concern about losing its water source that is needed in its manufacturing process.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission granted approval on Dec. 14, 2012, for water withdrawal, noting that it would “not cause permanent loss of aquifer storage, render competing supplies unreliable or cause adverse impacts to the water resources in the basin.”

Kurt E. Williams, an attorney for Centura Development, claimed Lehman was trying to “trick” Colocino with his line of questioning, which attempted to determine Colocino’s involvement in completing an conditional-use application.

Lehman said the company’s original application would not have met township requirements. Only after conditional-use hearings begin did Centura Development provide additional information to be used in its application, Lehman said.

Colocino said he was not aware that would be a problem. Indeed, Smith ruled at an earlier hearing that the company could present information as needed at hearings.

Wednesday’s session was attended by about 50 people – almost half as much as the first hearing held on April 30.

But those who questioned Colocino said they were angered about his lack of answers. Although residents were directed to ask questions of Colocino instead of providing commentary, many still expressed concern about the potential of dry wells and increased truck traffic.

Lehman previously testified that about 58 trucks a day could travel to and from the proposed site. Colocino said Wednesday night that there could be as many as 20 trucks idling at once as they wait to fill up with well water.

Colocino said the project would fit in with existing commercial business in the area and would not severely affect traffic or noise levels.

“The increase of traffic would be less than 3 percent” to present levels, he said. “I don’t think it would create any more significant noise than is caused by the current operations.”

Pat Spangler, of Janet Avenue, asked Colocino if the company would consider taking water directly from Lycoming Creek instead of a well if permitted by the township.

He responded that he didn’t know but added that Centura Development does not own any creek frontage to do so.

Michael Steele, of Hayes Avenue, asked if the company would suspend water withdrawal in drought situations.

“That would be the purview of the SRBC to answer that,” Colocino said.

Another conditional-use hearing is planned for 7 p.m. May 30 at the Old Lycoming Township Volunteer Fire Co. Additional hearings also may be required beyond that date, according to Smith.

The township’s planning commission is expected to make a recommendation on the project to supervisors sometime after hearings are completed.