It's been 10 years in the planning and development stages and finally, says the Walnutport Authority, the borough's new water filtration system should be operational before the end of this year.

"We're in the process of finishing up a new filtration system at one of our old, existing water sources that has not been online for a number of years," said Walnutport Authority Chairman Ron Kuntz. "It's taken this long for engineering, for permitting…DEP regulations, EPA, [etc.]."

Last night, members of the authority, which is charged with operating, maintaining and setting the rates for the borough's water and sewer systems, visited the site of the new filtration plant on Alder Street, just north of Kmart.

They gathered to view the plant, which arrived several weeks ago on palettes and is now assembled but not yet online because it needs the electric put in yet.

The authority said the new plant will almost double the borough's water capacity by processing up to a quarter million more gallons per day, though it will not run all the time. They added that there are other water sources for the borough, but having this new one will help protect against the possibility of the those sources being affected by drought.

It also means the borough will be better prepared in case of further development and also that there may be less of a need to put restrictions on water usage so quickly in the future.

Though the wells were already there, the authority said, they were drilled adjacent to a quarry and, back in the late 1990s, regulations changed to then consider that source a surface source.

"[So] even though the water quality tested out fine," said Kuntz, "we still have to filter it. This is the big expense that the authority is going through."

The plant will clean out any impurities like bacteria and particulates, the authority said.

Members recalled how the borough of Walnutport had an underground water system for decades, but it did not have a sanitary sewer system until 1979. Before then, residents used holding tanks and septic systems. But the borough, because of its poor drainage, had so many malfunctioning systems that it no longer became practical to have them.

So in the '70s, noted Systems Manager Mike Newhard, the Walnutport Borough Council organized and formed the Walnutport Authority because it was beyond borough council's ability to loan and fund for the installation and necessary maintenance of the water and sewer utilities.

Unlike the borough, the authority is not encumbered by the same debt ceiling laws and, therefore, has unlimited loaning powers, Newhard said.

Since then, millions of dollars have been spent on both systems and upgrades to them, Newhard continues, including a much-needed upgrade to the original early-1900s water system and, of course, the upcoming new filtration plant on Alder Street.

It received some grants for the initial construction of the borough sewer system but had to finance the rest.

However, this most-recent improvement comes strictly from loans, meaning borough customers will pay for it via their quarterly water and sewer bill, which is why they've seen increases in the past several years, the authority explained.

Kuntz said the authority expects to soon have out a media press release about the new filtration plant and to invite local TV stations to attend its impending formal public announcement.