Supervisors deny water withdrawal

After six months and six hearings, two Old Lycoming Township supervisors handed down a decision Wednesday evening that denies a permit to Centura Development to withdraw up to 250,000 gallons of water a day for natural gas fracking from a well at 3231 Lycoming Creek Road.

Before the supervisors announced their decision, several citizens expressed last-minute concern about water quality and quantity in the township.

“I can walk across the Lycoming Creek and not get my calves wet,” David Rhoads said. “Years ago this would’ve been called a drought.”

“We’ve been told about the probability (of an accident) being so slim that this would ever happen. But how many people ever anticipated the chances of the flooding we’ve had here. The flood two years ago was a 100-year flood,” Chris Smith said. “What will they have in place if this highly improbable thing were to occur? What if our water is polluted?”

After the five citizens who spoke had their say, Supervisor John Eck called for a motion to deny the conditional use permit that Centura requested. Supervisor Linda Mazzullo made the motion, and Eck seconded. Before the two voted for the motion – Supervisor Janet Hall recused herself from the proceedings in April – Eck read a prepared statement which said, in part, that Centura’s application “did not comport with the health, safety and welfare needs of our citizens” and that the supervisors “did not challenge the water withdrawal issues as such.”

Centura did get a permit from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission in December 2012 to withdraw water from the 16.6-acre property. A review of reports from the meetings and the 23-page record released by supervisors with the decision shows that a host of other ancillary issues swayed the board to deny the permit.

The testimony of Centura witness Tony Colocino, an engineer, at the second hearing on May 8, was found to be “seriously flawed.”

In the conditional use application, there was no initial lighting study and no boundaries were established for the project, but rather “changed in size during the process” from the whole of the 16.6-acre property to 1.4 acres.

There also was no adequate demonstration of how truck traffic could either enter the property safely or how traffic might be staged outside. The Centura application called for 54 to 58 trucks per day to use the withdrawal facility, and stated “only that access would be via Lycoming Creek Road.”

There were no provisions for a rest area, a concern since the facility was expected to operate over 24 hours without the building staying open all night. The decision also says there never was “much effort given to address the generally residential characteristics of the neighborhood” during the hearing process.

Centura admitted the application was incomplete when submitted, and the decision says “intentions for the site have continuously evolved throughout the hearing process to the point that the record has become cluttered and the applicant’s intended use, structure or condition of the site is purely speculative at best.”

After Eck adjourned the meeting at 7:16 p.m., most of the 20 attendees applauded.

“I’m wrong for once. What the heck, that’s OK,” one said.