Residents oppose sewage plant

By Chani Katzen

NEWTOWN SQUARE - A proposed wastewater plant that would release treated sewage into the high-quality waters of the Crum Creek has prompted an angry outcry from local environmentalists and college students.

Officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection have received more than 275 letters asking them to deny the request by mega-developer Claude de Botton for the agency's approval.

The plant endangers the region's drinking water supply, critics say, because the creek flows downstream into the Springton Reservoir. The reservoir supplies water to about 280,000 Delaware County residents.

"We keep hearing more and more about regional planning and how we are abusing our resources," said Gabrielle Giddings, program coordinator of the local chapter of Clean Water Action, which is heading the recent effort. "This is a perfect opportunity to start thinking about this."

DEP officials, who are considering whether to issue an operating permit for the plant, say the public response has convinced them to take the unusual step of postponing a decision until a public hearing is held this spring.

The owner of the Springton Reservoir, the Philadelphia Suburban Water Co., says it is not worried about potential pollution because the facility will be operated by its subsidiary, Suburban Environmental Services Co.

Philadelphia Suburban, which entered the wastewater business in 1996, contracted with de Botton to build and design the plant in December 1998. It would treat 50,000 gallons of sewage a day from a planned hotel and shopping mall development on West Chester Pike. The effluent would be released first into wetlands and then into a tributary of Crum Creek.