By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
SHARON, Pa. -- The city and Upper Shenango Valley Water Pollution Control Authority are being forced to draft a joint plan to combat sewage overflows into the Shenango River.
Mayor David O. Ryan said the state Department of Environmental Protection told the city and the authority in a recent meeting that they must combine their efforts because they both send their sewage to the same place for treatment -- the Sharon sewage plant.
The state had required the city and authority to submit separate plans and they did.
Joseph Augustine, chairman of the authority, said his agency's plan was approved by the state. Ryan said Sharon's plan wasn't, and the result is the DEP now wants the two entities to draft a combined plan.
The state agency has said that plan will have to include major expansion of Sharon's treatment plant or construction of an entirely new plant, and the cost could reach $21 million, Ryan said.
Fred Hoffman, Sharon council president, said the new plan would likely double the size of Sharon's plant but would also likely double sewer rates for Sharon and authority customers as well.
Because the authority, which covers an area including Sharpsville and parts of South Pymatuning Township and the city of Hermitage, is responsible for 40 percent of the sewage flow to the Sharon plant, it would likely be responsible for 40 percent of the construction cost, Sharon officials said.
Augustine isn't so sure.
He said the authority is allowed to send 1.5 million gallons of sewage per day to the Sharon plant but has regularly exceeded that flow because of surface water infiltration into its lines.
A $1.2 million replacement of the authority's major pumping station north of Sharon now under way will eliminate chronic overflows into the river at that location, and, if the authority can reduce its daily flow to 1.3 million gallons by eliminating surface infiltration water, the DEP said it won't have to help fund an expansion or replacement of the Sharon plant, he said.
However, finding and eliminating those infiltration points can be extremely difficult, Augustine said, adding he doesn't know if it could be done before the DEP forces the issue of improving the Sharon plant.
Ryan said the DEP wants the city and authority to come up with a new plan within eight months.
Sharon's plant is rated at 4.5 million gallons of sewage per day but reaches peaks of 7.8 million gallons during periods of wet weather. City officials say that's a clear indication of surface water infiltration of sanitary lines, and Sharon has already spent more than $2 million to track down and eliminate about 475,000 gallons of infiltration.
It had proposed spending about $10 million more in the effort under the plan rejected by the DEP.