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Engineer rips Latrobe Municipal Authority's sewage plan

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Thursday, March 22, 2012
 

Depending upon which engineering report is accurate, the Latrobe Municipal Authority's plan to construct a 4-million-gallon tank and pump station to prevent its sewage treatment plant from overloading during storms is either a viable solution or a faulty option that could be a waste of money.

The draft plan the Latrobe Municipal Authority submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection to correct the overflow problem at its Loyalhanna Creek plant is based on inaccurate assessments of storm flows, solutions that probably won't work when a storm does occur and a massive underestimate of the cost of solving the problem, engineer Larry Lennon told the Unity Township Municipal Authority on Wednesday.

Latrobe's plan for a $6.85 million solution estimates it will cost the 11,484 customers an additional $3.90 a month in sewage charges, compared with Unity Township's plan that would cost $16.6 million for a 1.3-million underground tank, pump station and a million-gallon upgrade to its 14 Mile Run plant. Unity's plan would boost rates to Unity customers by $11.90 a month.

"The (Latrobe)-recommended plan does not provide compliance (to state requirements) and opens a risk for future corrective action. The worst thing is, five years down the road, you're adding something at a much higher price tag," said Lennon, whose firm developed its own plan that has been submitted to the state.

In the case of a heavy storm, Lennon said, his firm has estimated that Unity's sewer system would send more than 4.5 million gallons to the overflow tank. That would not allow for any storage of overflow from Derry's or Latrobe's system, Lennon said.

The cost of constructing a 4-million-gallon underground tank, with interceptor lines and diverters to route some of the sewage into the tank, would cost closer to $18 million, rather than the $6.8 million estimated by Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. of Latrobe, Lennon said.

"I think there's a whole lot more costs that are not being disclosed," Lennon said.

But Ed Schmitt, an engineer with Gibson-Thomas, defended the validity of his company's plan under questioning from Lennon and authority board members.

By resolving the overflow problem and removing high organic load from City Brewing Co.'s brewery, the state will give the Latrobe Municipal Authority permission to expand its dry-weather capacity to 5.6 million gallons daily from 5 million gallons, Gibson-Thomas engineer Ken Orie told the Unity authority board members. That will make available tap-ins for about 2,000 households, Orie said.

But, Lennon said that prior reports from Latrobe's authority had estimated it would cost $26 million to increase the capacity of the plant.

The Latrobe authority is accepting comments on its report for the next few weeks before the plan is submitted to the state.

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