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Palmerton seeks grant for new wastewater treatment plant

Published June 25. 2010 05:00PM

Palmerton has applied for a grant to help afford a new wastewater treatment plant.

Borough Council on a 4-0 vote Thursday adopted a resolution to apply for an H2O grant in the amount of $8,164,530.

Councilmen Chris Olivia, Jason Behler, Richard Nothstein and council President Terry Costenbader voted in favor. Councilmen Randolph Gursky and Kris Hoffner and Councilwoman Sheri Malik were absent.

Pennsylvania American Water's Help to Others Customer Assistance Program was established by the General Assembly in July 2008. The Act provides for single-year or multiyear grants to municipalities or municipal authorities to assist with the construction of drinking water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer projects.

Council in April authorized the borough manager and borough solicitor to prepare a $10 million bond issue after it learned the project would cost more than expected.

For residents, that will mean about a $17-18 increase in their monthly sewer bill rate, which could go into effect by Jan. 1, 2011.

The project is expected to go out to bid later this spring, and construction could begin in the fall.

As of January, the project was expected to cost the borough about $6.5 million, however, engineer estimates pushed the project's cost higher. On top of that, an anticipated grant the borough hoped to receive through PennVEST failed to come to fruition.

In July of last year, council learned the project would cost an additional $1 million more than the $5.5 million originally estimated.

At that time, council agreed to spend $989,000 on a cannibal treatment process, as well as $300,000 for an ultraviolet disinfection system.

Council agreed to that measure after it heard a presentation from Michael Sassaman, of ARRO Consulting Engineers.

Sassaman told council at that time the new option came to light after ARRO and borough officials visited the Jet Tech Factory in Kansas City, Mo., as well as an operating cannibal facility in California.

The new innovative process is now offered with the SBR Treatment Process that is being designed at the borough's wastewater treatment plant, Sassaman previously said.

Sassaman previously said the cannibal process is proven to modify the treatment process so that the plant eats up 90 percent of its own biological sludge.

The annual savings is expected to be about $57,000 per year, said Sassaman, who noted the cost of the cannibal system is $624,000 more than the previously proposed aerobic digestion system upgrade.

The estimated payback on the cannibal process is between six to nine years, after which ongoing savings will be realized, Sassaman previously said. Plus, he said Jet Tech has agreed to double the warranty period from one to two years for the system.

Sassaman said the life expectancy of the system is between 20-40 years. He previously said construction was slated for September, and that the project could be completed by 2012.

Council approved this year's budget with a 1-mill reduction in property taxes. However, as part of that budget, it approved a $10 increase in the monthly sewer rate due to the project.

In other business, council:

• Approved a new subcontractors agreement to pay interns from Lehigh University $10,000 the borough has left in a Brownfields Assessment Grant to continue to conduct more studies at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center.

• Approved a medical insurance agreement for borough employees.

• Approved the resignation of Tom Schmidt from the borough's Municipal Authority, and announced candidates interested in the vacancy may apply for the position.

• Adopted an ordinance for a stop sign to be placed at the intersection of Second Street and Columbia Avenue.

• Agreed to advertise for adoption the first reading of a handicapped parking ordinance.

• Approved a request by the fire company to take a fire truck to the Four County Firemen's Parade in Slatington on Saturday.

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