For many years now Tamaqua has been getting free money.

They charged residents a fee but didn't provide the service.

It's time these residents were reimbursed.

Up to 40 property owners thought they were hooked up to the borough's sewer system. They weren't. Their sewage was flowing into the Wabash Creek.

Now it's time for them to pay the piper.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an order to the borough last December to investigate and remove all illegal sewage discharges to the creek.

Suddenly, property owners had a big problem and an expensive one.

Despite the fact they were paying periodic sewer bills all those years, they now learned that they would have to pay a hefty price to hook up to a system they thought they were already hooked into.

Cost estimates vary from property owner to property owner from $7,000 for one homeowner, to $25,000 to another property owner who will have to dig under Broad Street (Route 209) to secure his hookup.

The borough acknowledges the error, but it doesn't seem willing to rectify it. And we can understand why. It would cost them a lot of money to reimburse those who have been paying their bogus sewer bill all these years.

But like it or not, the borough has a moral obligation to refund the money to the 40 property owners. It will help defray some of the expense the homeowners will be obligated to pay when they are mandated to hook into the sewer system by the end of August.

One woman said she has paid an estimated $9,200 in sewer bills to the borough over the last 30 years. For what? To eventually find out that she was illegally hooked up and not receiving the service she was paying for?

The borough didn't know she wasn't hooked into the system. Otherwise they wouldn't have been charging her sewer fees all these years.

Affected residents are also complaining that the long delay of nearly three years to do the testing on these properties resulted in them losing the opportunity to secure government assistance. We're sure many can't afford the expense, even if they secure a low interest loan from the borough.

Tamaqua has an obligation to do what's right for these people. Those who have been paying their bills and not receiving the service must be reimbursed. It's the only fair way to right a terrible wrong.

Bob Urban

rurban@tnonline.com [1]