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Stalled sewer project getting some attention

Published December 04. 2010 09:00AM

A sewer project that has been stalled for at least five years finally seems to be gathering momentum in Walker Township. However, it could still be a decade before the project finally comes to fruition. Officials from West Penn Township, including township engineer Ron Madison, of Rettew, and Al Martinez, chairman of the board of supervisors, provided a brief overview of the ongoing Act 537 project that is currently underway in West Penn Township. Part of the plan includes Reynolds, which is in Walker Township.

Madison explained that West Penn has formed an advisory board and is looking for two representatives from Walker Township to serve on the board. Eventually, the board would take on the role of a sewer authority. Madison also elaborated on why the project has been stalled for the last few years. The initial plan that had been prepared by another consultant had been kicked back from DEP because it failed to examine all possible waste management plans. "One of the big deficiencies was that the previous consultant made a lot of broad assumptions," said Madison. "There was a broad assumption that it would be too expensive to pump to Tamaqua borough, a broad assumption that the soil would not be appropriate for on-lot disposal." Madison said that all possible alternatives must be examined for feasibility and cost effectiveness.

West Penn is currently conducting on-site soil and perc testing to determine whether or not on-site systems could b e feasible. Madison stressed that having a property tested in no way meant that a system would be put there. The testing is a requirement. DEP has granted the project an extension until June 2011 to complete this phase of the project. Madison said that they hoped to complete the testing as soon as possible, but were running out of time before the weather makes it impossible. He said they have identified two properties in Reynolds that are appropriate for the testing and asked the supervisors to approve two motions, one that would advise property owners that the testing will be completed and another one creating the two positions on the advisory board to be filled by representatives from Walker Township.

Once the testing is completed, Madison said that they expect it will take at least a year, if not more, for DEP to evaluate the study findings. Following the approval by DEP, the next step would be to obtain funding for the project, which could take several years, depending what funding options were available. After that, the design phase of the project could add another year to the project. "It could be as much as ten years," said Madison. "It could be never. Even with the studies, it may not be cost effective. Then, the study goes on the shelf. It doesn't mean immediate implementation." Madison explained that the Act 537 plan is required by the State. After the plan is approved, the townships may apply for some reimbursement from DEP.

Walker township officials thanked Madison and Martinez for the information. "We haven't seen any progress in five years," said Chairman Craig Wagner. "Now we have a board, I think we're going to start seeing something happening." Wagner questioned how the costs for the project would be broken down between the areas. Madison said that that has not been determined yet and that there are a few options; however, if the project is view as one large project, rather than broken into four smaller projects, it would probably attract better funding options.

Supervisors did appoint Randall Bensinger to serve on the advisory board and are still looking for one more volunteer.

In other business, the supervisors discussed the expiration of the maintenance bond on the Wildcat Park construction project. The supervisors are still not satisfied with the surface irregularities although the contractor and the township engineer have both said that the work meets the specifications of the project. The supervisors asked for a second outside opinion. The maintenance bond expires on December 17th.

The supervisors will hold one final meeting for the year on December 27th at 7:30pm to approve the final budget.

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