A needs assessment survey for the Act 537 sewer project had estimated a cost of $11.5 million to install a public sewer option for West Penn and Walker townships when it was conducted a decade ago; after being reevaluated, the cost of the project is now estimated to be $1.29 million for a nonpublic option.

West Penn Township Engineer Ronald B. Madison, PE, said to the Walker Township board of supervisors at last evening's monthly meeting in the municipal building that the new survey has indicated there are fewer problems than previously thought and that individual property owners can fix their own issues by installing on-lot sewage systems, which is estimated to be $15,000 for replacing individual septic systems.

In December 2011, DEP had decided that in addition to the age of the first survey, which was done by Ludgate Engineering, the original needs assessment might have also been somewhat biased by the idea of high growth being seen at that point before the housing bubble popped, according to Madison.

"The net result from the whole needs assessment…is that the original needs assessment done in 2003 may have been overstated and our current focus will be to deal with individual solutions and/or cluster solutions," Madison said at West Penn's supervisors meeting last month. "…The overall program will provide substantial savings to both the townships and individual property owners."

In a joint agreement based on the numbers of homes with sewer issues in each township, West Penn is responsible for 82 percent of the cost, and Walker is responsible for the other 18 percent. The combined estimated cost for West Penn and Walker since the planning phase of Act 537 began in 2003 up this point has been $356,107, according to Madison, which includes the cost of having the sub consultant redo the outdated needs assessment survey where Sewage Enforcement Officer Scott C. Bieber of Lehigh Soils and Wetlands revisited 230 of 231 homes suspected to have septic issues.

In a letter sent to both townships on March 28, the plan's tentative schedule is outlined as follows: a joint meeting with both townships to review the completed draft of the plan is scheduled for Monday, May 20; a public hearing is scheduled on Monday, June 24 after the 30-day public review period ends; then on Wednesday, June 26 a joint meeting is scheduled to adopt final plan, which will be submitted that coming Friday, the deadline for submitting the adopted plan to DEP.

The next Walker Township board of supervisors meeting will be on Thursday, June 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the municipal building.