Several environmental groups and citizens are suing the Village of Painted Post in Steuben County, NY, over a contract to sell some of its water supplies to a unit of Royal Dutch Shell plc for its Marcellus Shale natural gas operations in Tioga County, PA.
The village board in March authorized a five-year contract to sell at least 314 million gallons of water to Shell subsidiary Swepi LP. The village is incorporated in the Town of Erwin, NY, at the confluence of the Cohocton River, the Tioga River and the Chemung River. The village has permission of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, which oversees the village’s water supplies, to sell up to one million gallons of water a day. According to village officials, an aquifer that feeds the water system is able to produce more than twice that amount.
The village’s water system now serves about 1,842 residents through 769 service connections, according to the 2011 annual drinking water quality report.
In late June the Sierra Club, People for a Health Environment Inc., Coalition to Protect New York and four Painted Post citizens filed a civil lawsuit in Steuben County challenging the contract, which includes a land lease for a water loading facility to be built in the village (Sierra Club et al. v. The Village of Painted Post et al., No. 2012-0810).
Until state and federal environmental reviews are completed, the petitioners have asked the court to block the rail-loading facility from being built to transport water from the municipal water system to Wellsboro, PA, in Tioga County, where water would be transported to gas drilling sites in the region. The petitioners claim that Painted Post’s “drinking water supplies may be contaminated or diminished and they may be adversely affected by the increase in rail traffic, automobile traffic blockages, and the increased noise and air contamination that will be created…by the water shipments from the rail loading facility and the receipt of empty rail cars at the loading facility…”
In Tioga County, “surrounding areas will also be adversely affected by the increase in rail traffic, automobile traffic blockages and the increased noise and air contamination that will be created at the terminus of the rail line in Wellsboro, PA, by the receipt of the water shipments and the return of empty railcars,” the petitioners claim.
A hearing to grant a preliminary injunction is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on July 23 at the Steuben County Courthouse in the Village of Bath.
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