Tamaqua Borough Council heard an update last week concerning "wildcat" sewers discovered in the borough. The update was provided by Assistant to the Borough Manager Rob Jones during council's monthly meeting.
The illegal sewers became a controversial issue after the borough received a mandate last December from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. DEP ordered borough leaders to identify any property illegally discharging waste into the Wabash River or Panther Creek, then have those buildings connect to the borough's sewer line by Aug. 3. Residents and business owners with illegal discharges are upset over the costs of the connections, which they will have to pay despite years of paying the borough for sewer service.
A One Services of Shenandoah and the borough work force conducted dye testing and inspection of 81 lines suspected of being illegal, noted Jones. From that list, 26 properties were removed: 13 tested negative for any illegal discharge; four properties were recently destroyed/demolished by fire; and nine property owners recently connected to the borough's system.
That leaves a total of 42 properties, some with possible multiple connections, that still need to be connected in order to bring the borough into compliance with the DEP mandate. Of those, two properties were unable to be fully investigated as the property owners failed to respond to the notices sent and three properties will need further investigation to determine just where the waste discharges.
The possibility of wildcat sewers has been a topic of discussion for decades. In 2008, property owners received letters concerning the problem, noting that dye testing would begin in the near future, which turned out to be three years later. In the meantime, with no dye tests to determine who was or wasn't connected, affected property owners continued paying quarterly sewage fees for services they weren't receiving. A contingent attended the July 19 meeting of council to express their displeasure and ask for relief, which wasn't forthcoming.
The borough is still awaiting a formal DEP reply to a request for an extension to the Aug. 31 deadline. That request was neither approved nor denied, with a DEP spokesman suggesting the problem be corrected "as soon as possible."