Western Westmoreland Municipal Authority to hike rates for work

| Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Projected rate increases totaling at least another $10 per month — and staying on the books for at least 25 years — are coming down the pipeline to Western Westmoreland Municipal Authority customers to repay the debt for a state-mandated project.

When all of the costs add up, customers probably will end up paying $15 or $16 per month toward debt service for a project that's estimated to cost $56.5 million, Brad Boddy, a consulting engineer for the authority, said last week.

Like the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority and some other sewage-treatment entities, the Western Westmoreland authority, or WWMA, is being forced under federal Clean Water Act regulations to eliminate releases of untreated wastewater into streams during heavy rains.

“You can have (a) Noah's Ark (situation); it can rain for 40 days and 40 nights, and if you have an (overflow), it's illegal,” Boddy said.

The authority is proposing to build a new pump station across from the treatment plant along Route 993 in North Huntingdon, install a new 5.2-million-gallon storage tank and replace 85 percent of the authority's 7.1 miles of interceptor lines with larger pipes.

The storage tank won't be needed as part of the daily operations for the treatment plant but would become important during the wettest times, when a deluge of groundwater gets into the sewage pipes and overwhelms the existing facilities. Officials estimate 40 to 60 percent of the extra inflow comes from property owners' private lateral lines.

Because both Manor and Irwin have separated their combined sanitary and storm-water sewers in recent years, the authority now is focused on the remaining 10 to 15 times a year in which there is an overflow because of overwhelming sanitary-sewer lines.

Residents in the authority's service area whose wastewater is treated at the North Huntingdon plant already are paying more because of the upcoming project. A $5-per-month increase — creating a base rate of $25.35 per month — took effect in January 2013 specifically for the project.

Depending on the bids the authority receives for its three-phase project, the authority's board might have to raise rates by another $10 or $11 per month to repay a state loan or revenue bonds, according to Boddy.

Officials estimate it would cost the authority $2.8 million per year over 25 years to repay low-interest loans from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or PENNVEST. The cost to repay revenue bonds over 34 years would be about $3 million annually.

The project isn't expected to affect the rates for the 285 customers in North Huntingdon and Penn Township who are in the Cavittsville-Ardara district, which is served by a separate pump station.

Authority officials also are looking at long-range growth in the service area, estimating that the number of customers served might increase by as much as 26 percent to more than 20,000 by 2035.

“If we're going to spend this amount in capital improvements, we don't want to have to turn around and do the same process again,” Boddy said.

Construction of the pump station and storage tank is scheduled to begin by March 2016. Work on the five interceptor systems would wrap up by May 2020.

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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