Summit Hill Borough Council President Joe Weber said last night he will call a special borough council meeting to deal with complaints about sewage backing-up into the basements of homes.

About a dozen people attending last night's council meeting voiced complaints about sewage problems.

Weber said he would prefer having a meeting in which borough engineer Ronald Tirpak attends. He said Tirpak would have more information than he does on the sewerage system, and be better able to answer questions that residents posed.

The council president pointed out that the central sewerage system is about a century old, but replacing or even making major repairs would be extremely expensive for the town's residents.

He said that for the borough to qualify for government grants, it would have to quadruple sewer rates.

Sewer rates are based upon water consumption.

Weber said currently the rate is about $40 per quarter for many residents. He said to qualify for state financial assistance the borough would have to increase it to about $160 per quarter.

Councilman Michael Kokinda agreed.

"Basically, if we seek grant money, they'll just say 'raise your rates,'" he told the audience.

Most council members feel the problem exists because a large amount of storm water from basements and other sources is getting into the central sewerage system.

"Everybody in this room knows storm water is the problem," said zoning officer Larry Marek.

Some residents were concerned that a new sewage line laid on Pine Street might be a problem. They said their basement woes began after that pipe was installed.

Much of the discussion centered around problems in the 100 block of East White Street, where one resident said he had about two-and-a-half to three feet of water and sewage backed-up into his basement last week.

There also were complaints about sewer problems from Joe Behovich of East Hazard Street and Dave Ogozalek of East Amidon Street.

In months past, residents of a few other streets had complained about water from the sewerage system getting into their basements.

The borough has responded to those past complaints by utilizing cameras to inspect the sewerage system.

People who attended last night's meeting said they have had several instances in the past year of basement flooding.

The people on East White Street said there never had been a problem with flooding in their basements until this year.

"It's costing people hundreds of dollars," said Stanley Szczecina of East White Street. He said he feels the line that was installed on Pine Street is too small.

Weber said the Pine Street work was to resolve a force-main issue. He said he doesn't think any changes were made to the system, but will check with the engineer.

Of the problems people are having, Weber cautioned, "There is no quick-fix on this."

One resident suggested that the current manhole covers aren't providing enough ventilation for the sewerage system.

Weber said a major problem appears to be open drains in basements connected to the sewerage system. Such drains are in violation of borough and state regulations, he said.

"Storm water is overloading the sewerage system," interjected the borough's solicitor, attorney Joseph Matika.

John O'Gurek, vice president of the council, said that anyone with an open drain should plug it. This will not only prevent water from entering the sewerage system, but also will stop sewage from backing into basements.

He noted that many homes in the borough are old and have water problems in basements, but these situations should be resolved with a sump pump removing the water, and not into the sewerage system.

Weber said the time will come when the borough will have to look into a potentially major project, which will be very expensive.

One woman said the cleanup of her basement resulted in 40 bags of garbage being accumulated. The council said it will contact the borough's garbage collector, Tamaqua Transfer, and ask it to take the 40 bags. Generally the borough has a five-bag maximum for garbage pick-up.

The council president urged anyone who develops sewage back up to call the borough hall so the complaints can be logged.