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Western Westmoreland Municipal Authority to hike sewage fee by 25%

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:52 p.m.

The Western Westmoreland Municipal Authority's quarterly sewage rate will increase by nearly 25 percent next year to help pay for the planning of treatment-plant upgrades that might cost tens of millions of dollars, the authority board's chairman said last week.

Starting in January, the quarterly WWMA services fees will rise by $15 to $76.05, meaning rates will have gone up by 45 percent since 2002. Overall charges vary depending on maintenance or other fees added to sewage bills by municipalities.

The authority serves all of Manor and part of Penn Township.

Chairman Chuck Konkus, who also serves as Manor Council's president, said the board had to inflate the rates to help pay for state-mandated improvements to eliminate the release of untreated but diluted wastewater into Brush Creek.

“We were just tearing that budget apart to see if there was any wiggle room in there,” Konkus said.

The new revenue will go toward the costs of design and engineering a solution for the discharges. Other entities, including the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, also are working on similar plans to significantly reduce or eliminate discharges during heavy rains.

WWMA officials said they haven't settled on a plan, but they have scheduled a Dec. 10 meeting with elected officials from the six member communities to review their options.

In recent months, board members have discussed constructing storage tanks to collect overflows, then slowly release the wastewater into the plant for treatment.

Another option is to increase the size of the sewage system's interceptor lines.

Konkus estimated a project could cost between $35 million and $50 million.

WWMA General Manager Kevin Fisher said the authority is required by the end of the year to submit a report for the state Department of Environmental Protection. The design phase could begin in March for a tentative scheduled that could lead to the solicitation of bids in July 2014, he said.

The authority likely will have to rely on a municipal bond issue , funding through Pennsylvania Infrastructure and Investment Authority, or both, for the project because of the lack of available grant money, Fisher said.

“The wet-weather issues are major concerns to (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and DEP, and they have to be addressed,” he said. “Every community is taking the brunt of it, unfortunately.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8671 or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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