SHARON, PA. Sewer fee increase to correct problems

Finding and eliminating surface water infiltration points will be a costly exercise.
SHARON, Pa. -- City officials said Sharon residents can expect a big increase in their sewer fees to pay for the correction of municipal sanitary sewer problems.
City council got its first look at a proposed sewer improvement plan that could cost between $10 million and $12 million.
The city will have to borrow most of the money to pay for it and sewer fees could jump around 33 percent to cover the debt, said Fred Hoffman, council president.
Most residents use between 1,668 and 5,000 gallons of water per month and pay a flat fee of $15.17 per month.
Sharon is under a mandate from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to correct overflows at its sewage treatment plant during periods of wet weather and must come up with a plan showing how that will be done.
Dan Goncz of the engineering firm Gannett Fleming Inc. presented a draft plan to council, saying it must be sent to the DEP by the end of the week for review.
A final plan must be submitted by Dec. 31, he said.
Rating: Sharon's sewage treatment plant is rated by the state to be able to handle 4.5 million gallons per day but, during wet weather, the flow can climb as high as 7.8 million gallons per day, Goncz said.
Sharon maintains that much of that overage is the result of rain or Shenango River water getting into the sanitary lines and has been searching for infiltration points in an effort to bring down the flow levels.
That is still the basis of the draft plan prepared by Goncz.
Cuts: The city needs to cut that infiltration by 2.2 million gallons per day during wet weather, he said.
Upper Shenango Valley Water Pollution Control Authority, which pumps sewage to the Sharon plant, is responsible for eliminating another 1.1 million gallons.
The city has pinpointed the sources for 475,000 gallons of infiltration and is in the process of eliminating those points now at a cost of $2.1 million.
Getting the rest could cost between $8.2 and $10.2 million more, Goncz said.
The alternative is to build a bigger treatment plant but that cost would be in the range of $20 million, he said.
Overflows: The draft plan also calls for the elimination of overflows at the system's Connelly Boulevard siphon chamber that pumps sewage under the Shenango River.
Goncz said the city should buy a special camera to examine the sewer lines and hire another employee to work solely on finding water infiltration points. The process could take five years, he said.
Council voted to send the draft plan to the DEP but clearly wasn't happy with its options.
"We don't have any choice," Councilman Lou Rotunno said.
Sewer rates will have to go up to pay for it, Councilman Raymond Fabian said.
"This is a gamble," Hoffman said, pointing out that the city could still be faced with building a bigger plant if it can't eliminate enough surface water infiltration.

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