Nearly 80-percent of Slatington's half-century-old sewer system is set to be replaced as part of a $7 million wastewater infrastructure project.

A detailed analysis of the project was given as part of a groundbreaking ceremony at the borough garage on Monday that was attended by various borough officials.

The project is expected to reduce the inflow and infiltration into the system and subsequently reduce the amount of extraneous flow treated at the wastewater treatment plant that currently serves Slatington, Walnutport Borough and Washington Township.

The current system was installed in the 1950s and serves approximately 4,400 people. Michael F. Ronca & Sons, Inc. of Bethlehem, was awarded a contract last month to do the project.

Mike Bedrin, northeast regional director for the Department of Environmental Protection, said the project will prevent untreated sewage overflows into the Lehigh River and create an estimated 150 jobs, according to Mike Bedrin, northeast regional director for the Department of Environmental Protection.

Bedrin said water and sewer projects financed by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are creating jobs and helping communities to make much needed renovations and upgrades to this vital infrastructure.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is putting Americans to work, but job creation is just one of the many benefits of this program," Bedrin said. Across the state, in communities of all sizes, we are tackling long-standing public health and safety concerns, protecting our waterways and creating opportunities for economic development by upgrading and repairing our critical drinking water and wastewater infrastructure."

Gary Phillips, Slatington Borough Authority chairman, said the project is a team effort."

This is a very important day to the history of the borough," Phillips said. We hope to move ahead and maintain the system so that the citizens of the borough can benefit."

Mayor Walter Neidermeyer thanked all those who played a role to ensure the project would become a reality.

The Slatington Borough Authority has over $7 million through the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds administered through PennVEST to pay for the project.

Of that, it has $4.7 million in grants along with another $2.3 million as part of a 20-year, one-percent loan through PennVEST.

The money will be used to replace or rehabilitate nearly 14.4 miles of aging sewer pipes and will address historic pollution and public health problems caused by storm-water infiltrating and overwhelming the authority's sewage collection and treatment system, Bedrin said.

The project will replace 5.5 miles of antiquated clay pipe with PVC pipe and line an additional 8.9 miles of existing sewer pipe with a cured-in-place plastic liner. Manholes throughout the system will also be replaced or rehabilitated as the project progresses.

Bedrin said the investment is making the project affordable to the community, without significant increases to residential sewer rates, and will reduce the overall cost of operating the sewage treatment plant by greatly decreasing the amount of storm-water entering the sewage collection system.

The cost of the project is expected to have a minimal effect on the current sewer rate for residents. Currently, Slatington residents pay $80 for 8,000 gallons, and $7.54 for each additional 1,000 gallons per quarter.

The average annual residential sewer bill will be about $624, based on the grant/loan combination awarded by PennVEST, Authority officials have said.

Detailed plans and specifications for the project, as well as a detailed cost opinion are available for public review at the Authority's office, located at 125 S. Walnut Street, Slatington.

In August, council adopted an ordinance to incur lease rental debt in the maximum principal amount of $2,329,820 to assist with the project.

As part of that ordinance, a guarantee agreement securing a debt obligation to be issued by the borough authority to the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority to construct improvements to the sewer system facilities owned by the borough authority and leased to the borough.

The guarantee agreement guarantees maximum, annual debt service payments of the borough authority under the debt obligation to be issued by the Authority, ranging from a low of $3,559, to a high of $128,577.

In Oct. 2008, the borough received federal funding in the amount of $162,426 to do the work through the office of State Rep. Charles W. Dent (PA-15) through the state Environmental Protection Agency's State and Tribal Assistance Grant Program.

Borough officials have said a significant amount of inflow and infiltration is at the root of the sewer plant's problem, which increases its cost and limits the borough's ability to take on more customers.

A four-week study in which six flow meters were positioned throughout the borough at strategic spots that were suspected as being problem areas was completed last fall.

The commonwealth received approximately $220 million in recovery funds this year that is being distributed to communities in the form of grants and loans through PENNVEST for drinking water and wastewater projects.

In addition to addressing public safety problems such as leaking and failing wastewater systems that discharge raw sewage into streams and public areas, the repair projects are boosting local economies, providing more than 5,600 construction-related jobs.

In August, Governor Edward G. Rendell noted that Pennsylvania has awarded 191 grants and loans worth more than $1 billion to critical drinking water and wastewater projects this year through a combination of funds from PENNVEST, the Recovery Act and other sources.

To learn more about how the federal economic stimulus program will benefit communities across Pennsylvania, visit www.recovery.pa.gov [2].