Frankford lands local oversight with well-drilling ordinance

 

FRANKFORD – Lacking municipal teeth currently at the state level, the town of Frankford has gone the local route for authority over well-drilling within town limits.

Town council at its Aug. 7 meeting approved Ordinance 34 following second reading by council president Joanne Bacon.

The local ordinance gives the town authority to approve or deny any well sought to be drilled within town limits in efforts to:

  • safeguard against the threat to the town’s aquifer;
  • allow oversight on usage of any wells;
  • restrict usage of wells within the Well Head Protection Zone designated by DNREC;
  • and to continue providing water to residents and businesses.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to drill or otherwise construct, install, operate or use any well for the taking of water within the corporate limits without first securing approval of the town council and valid permit being issued by the DNREC (Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control),” said ordinance states.

Frankford’s proposed ordinance coincides with a proposed amendment to Delaware Code Title 7 – House Bill 38 – that would give municipalities authority to sign off on well permits.

HB 38, which would have reverted to 2001 law that gave municipalities authority to sign off on well drilling, passed the state House of Representatives but died in committee in the state senate during this past General Assembly session.

A legislative change in the law in 2001 removed municipal governments from having approval authority over non­potable wells.

That 2001 legislation came into play last year when town officials discovered a sharp drop in its water revenue. With DNREC’s permission but not the town’s, Mountaire, historically the town’s top water user for decades, drilled its own well to meet what company spokesman Mike Tirrell said was high volume/pressure needs at its feed mill operation on Daisey Street.

That well went into operation in January 2016.

Facing substantial loss in annual water revenue, the town in August 2016 challenged the validity of DNREC’s approval without any sign-off authority from the town with an appeal to the Delaware Environmental Appeals Board.

The appeal has not been heard, and is a poker chip in an agreement between the town and DNREC.

DNREC will forgive loans the town obtained for its water plant and system in return for the town dropping its appeal, conducting a water feasibility student and installing fluoride in its water system.

Frankford’s local ordinance pertaining to wells did not go without some debate.

Town resident Duane Beck said the ordinance should require an abandonment report by the well driller, a standard DNREC procedure that should be added.

“That goes without saying,” said town councilman Marty Presley. “We’re not writing DNREC’s regulations. We’re just writing an ordinance for our town. We can’t encompass all DNREC’s regulations in our own ordinance. You’ve still got to comply with DNREC. You’ve got to comply with our ordinance, and comply with state law.”

Mr. Beck stressed that there is a need for a valid permit from DNREC. “You need an abandonment report so that DNREC knows they are closing it down properly so it doesn’t affect the aquifer,” said Mr. Beck, adding it is “another check system making sure it is done properly.”

Mr. Presley asked if there was “any harm in us passing this tonight?”

Council then cast its approval.

However, councilman Greg Welch made note that the ordinance does not specifically address potable wells, and whether they are or not allowed.

“Or somebody that doesn’t want to drink fluoride. There is nothing like that in there,” said Mr. Welch. “It doesn’t mention potable wells, whether they are allowed or not allowed.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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