``With respect to a lot of the environmental issues, we feel there are a lot of unanswered questions,'' said John Fabian, a department engineer who heads the technical-services section of the agency's water-supply management division. ``Some things were not even investigated.''
Perrier is proposing to increase the amount of water it takes from the site from the current average of 65,000 gallons a day up to 95,000 gallons a day. And instead of capturing the spring water on the surface, as it does now, the company wants to start taking the water from a borehole, or well, it has drilled at the site.
Residents, area environmentalists, and local, county and state officials have denounced the project.
Fabian said the agency was not satisfied with Perrier's conclusion that there would be no effect on surrounding wetlands because its scientists could find no relationship between water captured in the layer of earth closest to the surface, an area known as the overburden, and water from the bedrock at the site.
``Nobody sampled the water in the wetlands,'' Fabian said, to find out which source that water's ``chemical fingerprint'' matched, or whether it comes from a third source.
The heavy rainfall of last year also could have masked fluctuations in the two water sources, he said, yielding test results that do not give a true picture of the effect on domestic wells near the site, on the wetlands, and on nearby Pigeon Creek, a high-quality stream.
DEP is also requesting that Perrier have the Army Corps of Engineers determine the boundaries of the wetlands on the site, he said, and it is expanding the area that could be influenced by Perrier's pumping. It has given Perrier 30 days to respond to the letter.
Perrier's hydrogeologist, James Griswold, of Atlantic Geoscience Corp., said he foresaw no trouble with meeting the terms outlined in DEP's letter.
``This is a letter requesting more information, a meeting and more testing,'' said Griswold. ``I don't see a problem.''
The original scope of the work was designed with input from DEP and scientists from the Delaware River Basin Commission, which has jurisdiction over groundwater withdrawals in the area, he said.
The township's consultant, Thomas Cahill, said that the DEP letter showed that the agency has grasped ``at least the significant issues, and they have questioned some of the defects in the data presented by Perrier thus far.''