A municipal waste system in the West Penn Township areas of Andreas, Clamtown, Reynolds, Snyders and South Tamaqua, is one step closer to reality as the West Penn Board of Supervisors approved a public review of the installation plan. The action was taken at last night's board meeting. The project is estimated to cost West Penn and Walker Township $11.5 million.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) mandated something be done about the amount of raw sewage running into waterways. In the past, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined West Penn because of the amount of pollution going into streams. Both DEP's and EPA's involvement are in regards to the township's violations against Act 537, which is part of the Clean Streams Law created to regulate sewage and other pollutants that go into the waters of Pennsylvania. Currently, over 200 waste systems are failing in the listed areas. Rettew, the company engineering the project, plans to install sewage facilities in 306 homes. Although the number of residences included in the plan seems small, Township Engineer Ronald B. Madison, PE said, "It affects the entire township, not just the study areas, of both municipalities."

According to the board, Walker Township will incur 18 or 19 percent of the total cost, and West Penn Township will be responsible for the remaining estimate of $9.5 million. "Based on meetings we had with [the United States Department of Agriculture] USDA," Madison said, "we believe it is possible the project will qualify for a 45 percent grant and a low interest loan for 40 years." As it stands, however, where the financing will come from is unknown.

Once the waste systems are in working order, Madison said, residents will be required to pay maintenance fees and every three to five years show proof they had their septic systems pumped out.

"Right now," Chairman Alfonso Martinez said, "we don't have a choice whether to do it or not. We have to do this."

"I disagree," one crowd member said. "I don't think we have to do that plan. I think we have to do a plan, but not that one." Sewage committee member Ted Bogosh said he and the committee believe that, while the plan was thorough and meets DEP's requirements, it does not meet "our needs."

Although the sewage committee approved for the plan to be publicly reviewed, Bogosh wanted it made clear to the board and to the community that the committee thinks other alternatives are available. Such alternatives will not invite such a large cost to the township, and it does not agree with the current plan as written. The committee made recommendations to the engineer for consideration.

A public hearing will be held Sept. 15 or Sept. 19 to further discuss the issue. An official date, time and location will soon be advertised in the TIMES NEWS. Also, the documents will be available at each municipality for citizens to review, which they can either save to a USB flash drive or have photocopied if desired.

Also addressed at Tuesday's meeting was an issue regarding zoning permits. Zoning Officer Harry Barron said people are doing things which require permits and then, afterward, submitting zoning applications for what was already done. If this sort of activity continues, he said violators will be fined for unauthorized construction.

Lastly, code enforcement and zoning officers report a total of $213,880 in construction costs.

The next West Penn Township board of supervisors meeting will be Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. at the municipal building.