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Rain overwhelming Washington Township sewer system

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 12:56 a.m.

The Washington Township Municipal Authority is adjusting to its new sewage system and voted Tuesday to try to alleviate a pressing problem: excess water during rain.

Authority Treasurer Tim Naulty said at a Tuesday meeting that the plant treats six to seven times the normal amount of water when it rains – a condition termed excessive infiltration – which swells operating costs.

The board agreed to pay up to $10,000 for two flow meters. The meters will be able to help plant manager Joe Alvarez isolate areas where excess flow is entering the system.

Naulty said the inflow is resulting in “explosive costs” including treatment and electricity.

A flow meter monitors, measures, or records the rate of flow, pressure, or discharge of a fluid.

Alvarez said he has identified manholes through which water is entering the system because they weren't properly put into place or sealed.

“Every system has some kind of infiltration, I don't care where you're talking,” Alvarez said. “The problem is there are three different pump stations just within Washington Township. If we knew the problem was at one pump station, that would be easy. With these flow meters, we'll be able to isolate and pinpoint exactly where the water is entering.”

Alvarez said 900 residents have tapped into a new collection system.

“We're going step by step, house to house,” he said.

Under pressure

The board addressed concerns initially brought up by a handful of residents who experienced low water pressure two months ago.

Naulty said “a game plan” will be formed to immediately notify fire company officials if a hydrant is out of service.

Washington Township Assistant Chief James “Guido” McGavitt told the board of an instance in which firefighters tapped a dry hydrant in Fayette City.

“If I get a house fire and send three guys in and go hit that hydrant and that hydrant has no water, those guys die,” McGavitt said. “It's not just Washington Township. Water lines break, unforeseen things happen. We just need to put something in place.”

The board agreed to sit down with the firefighters and concerned residents to create a notification system.

Alvarez said that if a fire hydrant loses pressure, he's notified instantaneously via an alert that comes from the plant to his cell phone.

“Five minutes can be the difference between life and death, and we realize that,” Naulty said. “This is almost like putting an evacuation plan for a hurricane situation.

“Even if there's a water line break, the firemen will know right away.”


The board addressed concerns about possible problems with the sewage project in the wake of a decision to cut ties with long-time engineering company Bankson Engineers Inc. and hire McMillen Engineering.

Board Chairman Chuck Yusko and other members assured uneasy residents that the switch would not affect completion of the sewage project or rusult in overpayment to Bankson.

“The old engineer is already under contract and he has to finish,” Naulty said after the meeting.

“(McMillen) is doing nothing that the old engineer is under contract for. They're just going to inherit new water-related issues.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.