A wildlife habitat survey will soon be conducted in Lower Towamensing Township.

Supervisor Ron Walbert said the township is waiting for the bog turtle study to be conducted once the weather clears up completely.

In November, supervisors agreed to contract with Environmental Consultation Services Inc. of Pen Argyl to conduct a wetlands/bog turtle study at a cost of $13,300.

The study, recommended by the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service, is being conducted in the area where a new $1.4 million sewage plant will be built, and is expected to be conducted this spring or early summer.

Information will be sent to the Department of Environmental Protection as the turtle is listed as an endangered species.

The turtle

According to the PA Fish and Boat Commission, the bog turtle is Pennsylvania's smallest turtle.

Even though it does not require large areas of habitat to survive, its populations have suffered from more problems associated with habitat loss than any other turtle in the state.

Bog turtles prefer to live in spring seeps and open, marshy meadows, which are usually found in flat or gently rolling landscapes of the valleys of southeastern Pennsylvania.

Some well-meaning people want to protect this species so much that they actually unknowingly endanger the turtles by removing them from the wild when they are seen crossing roads.

Typically, the turtle is dropped off at a pet store or nature center with little or no information pertaining to where it was picked up.

In many cases, turtles cannot be released back into the wild because their wetland of origin is unknown. Disease and genetic issues often prevent releasing turtles in areas other than their native wetland.

Bog turtles are listed both as a Pennsylvania endangered species and threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

In Pennsylvania, adult and juvenile bog turtles usually enter the mud to overwinter during late September and October. For at least half of the year, bog turtles exist in a dormant state buried in the mud.

The project

If a turtle is found in the project area, it would be left where it is.

The project area where the construction is going to occur would be temporarily fenced off to keep endangered species out of the work area, according to a senior biologist with Environmental Consultation Services Inc.

In January, the board approved a wastewater treatment agreement with the Tuthill Corporation to provide sewage treatment to the township.

The project was put out for bid, but no bids were submitted.

The board agreed to negotiate privately with Tuthill, the operator of Blue Mountain Resort.

Tuthill will pay an estimated $1.485 million to construct a new plant. The cost for the township to hook up to the plant once it is constructed is $598,604.

A new plant will provide wastewater treatment services to residents in the Little Gap, Walkton and Aquashicola geographic area.

The Weiner Trailer Court will be hooked up to Palmerton borough's wastewater treatment plant."

In September, supervisors agreed to advertise to bid the project, at which time township solicitor Jim Nanovic said the township was looking for a single entity to provide sewage treatment to the township.

Nanovic also said at that time that it would not be a township plant, but, rather a private plant, and that Blue Mountain Ski Area was eligible to bid on the project.

In July, the Delaware River Basin Commission granted Blue Mountain permission to expand its wastewater treatment plant.

New park

At that time, the commission approved the application submitted by Keystone Consulting Engineers, on behalf of Tuthill, for the renewal of an existing discharge from the ski area wastewater treatment plant.

That approval came as Blue Mountain began preliminary work on its new Summit Splash Water Park, where officials gathered last month for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the completion of the new road to begin the project.

Scheduled to open in 2016, the park is expected to create more than 200 full-time jobs.

Once completed, Summit Splash will include a giant wave pool, a lazy river, and tubing slides.

The approval means the ski area can now expand the facility from being able to treat and discharge 0.06 million gallons per day to 0.28 million gallons per day.

The expanded plant will now have three communitors/bar screens, a surge tank, five aeration tanks, five clarifiers, four sludge storage tanks, two chlorine contact tanks and two post aeration tanks.

The wastewater treatment plant will continue to discharge treated effluent to the Aquashicola Creek, within the drainage area of the section of the nontidal Delaware River known as the Lower Delaware, which is classified as Special Protection Waters, in Lower Towamensing Township.

The project facilities are not located in the 100-year floodplain.

Waste sludge will continue to be hauled off-site by a licensed hauler for disposal at a state-approved facility.