During a meeting Monday, West Penn supervisors tabled adopting the township's Act 537 plan. The township began working on the plan in 2003 (see Act 537 Plan timeline).

In a related action, the supervisors also tabled adoption of the On-lot Sewage Facility Maintenance Ordinance.

Along with Walker Township, the supervisors had held a public hearing on the Act 537 plan last Monday. Citizens who attended the meeting had concern about the On-lot Sewage Facility Maintenance ordinance, specifically, the time frame for scheduled system pumping.

The supervisors and the Sewer Committee will take more time to review the plan and possible revisions, based on citizens' concerns which were conveyed at the public hearing and also through Sewer Committee chairman Ted Bogash. The supervisors anticipate taking action on the plan at their August meeting.

Ron Maddison of Rettew, the township's engineer, said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved the township's application for covering the cost of the restoration of West Penn Park East, which was damaged about a year ago during tropical storm Lee. Maddison said that FEMA had originally denied the application but recently reversed the decision and sent a check for $58,630 to cover the repair bill from the contractor, Landis Deck and Sons.

Supervisors also adopted a new Flood Plain ordinance, which takes the place of the Flood Plain Ordinance passed last year in the township. Township solicitor Gretchen Sterns explained that changes in the new ordinance include an outline of steps the township would take in the case of building violations, for example, the ability to revoke a building permit if the work is in violation of flood plain requirements. The new ordinance also provides a time frame for correcting any issues.

Also, the new ordinance includes a specific provision that improvements to sewage facilities are not subject to the ordinance. Sterns said that the township didn't want the ordinance to hamper efforts to repair faulty sewage systems.

Act 537 Plan

Timeline

Ÿ 2003-2007 - The previous consultant, Ludgate Engineering, Reading, developed a draft plan, accepted by both townships and submitted to DEP. The cost estimate for the plan was $17.5 million. DEP returned the plans as "administratively incomplete" and requested additional work, such as well testing and soils investigation.

Ÿ 2007-2011 - Rettew completed the additional work and amended the draft plan. The new draft plan included a feasibility study for community on-lot sewage disposal systems, and also looked at alternative ideas for four areas, South Tamaqua, Clamtown/Reynolds, Andreas and Snyders. The cost estimate for that plan was $11.5 million.

Ÿ 2011- 2013 - A new Needs Assessment study, focusing on the existing systems, was completed. The study found evidence of "wildcat" systems in South Tamaqua and Andreas, and also confirmed malfunctions in systems.

The number of problems, 53 systems, involved either malfunctioning or wildcat systems. In 34 cases, the issues could be resolved on the property, leaving 19 systems where the existing sewage system was insufficient.

Ÿ 2013 - Rettew developed a new draft for an Act 537 Plan which focuses on properties which have specific needs. The current plan is drastically reduced in scope and so is the overall price tag, approximately $1 million.

According to the revamped plan, for the properties with specific needs, the project would implement small community system clusters. There would be a $1,500 tap-in fee for individual homes, with an annual cost of $890 per year/$75 per month.

In addition, property owners not part of the new systems would have to comply with an On-lot Sewage Management Ordinance, which would require an initial inspection of their systems, and then a pump out every five years