Proposed Fleischmanns water tank stirs more debate at village meeting

By Matthew J. Perry
An April 21 public hearing in Fleischmanns became a rancorous affair when a water storage tank—part of comprehensive project to improve the village’s water system—drew criticism from residents while being defended by village trustees.
The tank, which would be placed on the property of Arnold and Roslyn Bernstein off Paradise Camp Road, was described by Delaware Engineering as an emergency storage facility, as opposed to being a source necessary to the normal demands of the village, even during times of peak usage. According to the advocates, the tank would provide Fleischmanns with a modern resource that would ensure access to potable water in the event of a system failure, and would help meet increased demand should the village realize an influx of population or new businesses.

A blemish
The opposition described the project as another blemish on a depressed landscape, a bait and switch, and a pig in a poke.
Presently, the village relies on one 180,000-gallon reservoir located south of the village. “This arrangement leaves the village exceedingly vulnerable to extended water outages should the water main crossing the Bush Kill and Emory Brook be damaged or need to be shut down for repairs,” states an April 18 letter from DOH that was sent to Delaware Engineering.
While Delaware Engine-ering has drilled two new wells in the village, Alan Tavenner, P.E., stated at the public hearing that wells can be contaminated in floods and do not produce water quickly enough to meet fire flow demands. The storage tank, above ground and with capacity to sustain the village for “one to two days” at peak usage, was described as a superior solution. Its proximity to the village was justified by the extra expense of constructing waterlines.
Fleischmanns has sought to pay for its water system improvements in part through a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which could cover as much as 45 percent of the expenses, according to Delaware Engineering. The rest of the cost would be assumed in 30-year, no-interest loans, but it is imperative on the village to take out the loan if it is to receive DWSR funding. According to the DOH letter, when Fleischmanns applied for DWSR assistance, it named water storage as a necessity that was lacking in the village. As a result, the DOH “Expect[s] a treated water storage tank to be installed as a part of the comprehensive improvement project.”
Ken Ayers, an attorney representing Anita Rubin and David Schneiderman, the sole residents of Paradise Camp Road, pointed out that the DOH was not declaring that the village was required to build a storage tank. Rather, the tank was identified as a condition to securing a source of municipal funding. The implication behind this distinction was that advocates of the water tank had not been clear—perhaps deliberately—in their description of what the DOH had requested.

Hardship allowance
Tavenner conceded that Ayers’ point was valid, but stressed that a hardship allowance would be lost if the town did not make good on DOH recommendations. Improvements to the water system are already expected to double water rents in the village in the coming year; the trustees argued that with such an increase inevitable, the village may as well reap the greatest number of benefits.
“This is a question of public health and safety,” Mr. Tavenner said. “You have to have clean and secure drinking water.”
Defining the water tank as a benefit was precisely the issue for some critical residents, who questioned the necessity of more storage when the village has not suffered any shortages in recent years; why a village that has seen no major population growth in decades should expect anything different in coming decades; and where extra costs might be smuggled into the project. When criticism reached a crescendo, trustees began to fire back.
“You’re asking questions as if we’re trying to do something to you,” said trustee Harriet Grossman. “I feel like we’re being attacked and pulled apart, when we love this village as much as anyone else does. We’re trying to do something that helps.”