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Apollo takes first step toward separating lines

| Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009

APOLLO — Borough officials have submitted an application for state funding to separate its combined storm water and sanitary sewer lines.

The borough is applying for $7 million in grants and loans from PennVEST, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority.

The quarterly deadline to submit applications was Tuesday.

Project engineer Richard Craft, of Olsen Engineering in Butler, said officials should find out in April whether they have qualified, after the PennVEST board evaluates all applications.

“Apollo officials wanted to meet this deadline, to be ‘shovel-ready,'” Craft said. “So we went with the same project that was designed in 2000. We still had the DEP permit for that project, which is still good.”

Apollo Councilman John Ameno said, “Since there are new funds available for these kinds of projects, it's a good time to apply. We'll see how we do. They have criteria, they evaluate applications by points, some based on need. But we know a lot of other communities are going after the money, too.”

In 2001, Apollo got a $500,000 grant and $3.5 million loan from PennVEST for the project, but turned it down after a new slate of local officials opposed to the project was elected.

Craft said the borough applied for the full $7 million from PennVEST. But it also applied for 50 percent of the cost, or $3.5 million, the maximum allowed under a new state H20 PA program.

The local match for the H20 grant can come from PennVEST, he said.

Craft said the $7 million price tag is only an estimate.

He based the estimate on a Saxonburg Authority project in 2005, but officials are hoping that with the recession, bids from contractors for the work will come in lower.

The project will be to lay PVC sanitary sewer lines along 7.4 miles in the borough, Craft said.

Then, the old combined sewer and storm waterlines will be used just for storm water.

PennVEST has traditionally given out more loans than grants for waterline projects.

But a November referendum approved by state voters allowed the state to borrow $400 million for water-improvement projects. And there is $800 million in the H20 program approved last year by the Legislature.

Paul Marchetti, executive director of PennVEST, said in January that he expected the authority to use $200 million of its authorized $400 million for grants over the next two years.

Borough officials were told in a Jan. 30 meeting with PennVEST representatives that about $19 million in grants would be available in this round of PennVEST funding, Craft said.

He said the authority attempts to make the projects affordable for communities.

A longtime problem Apollo and other Kiski Valley towns have been under pressure from environmental officials for more than a decade to reduce sewage that flows into the Kiski River after heavy rains — because storm water overwhelms the sewer lines.

The discharge of raw sewage into the Kiski River is severely restricted under the federal Clean Water Act.

Federal and state environmental officials have been pressuring the Kiski Valley Water Pollution Authority and area communities for more than a decade to reduce the combined sewer outflows into the river.

Apollo is one of three Kiski Valley communities yet to separate its lines. Vandergrift and East Vandergrift are the other two. North Apollo, Leechburg, West Leechburg and Hyde Park have completed or are in the process of doing projects.

Bob Kossak, manager of the sewage authority, said under the federal act, the authority must reduce by 85 percent its yearly sewage discharge into the Kiski River.

Kossak said representatives of Vandergrift, Apollo and East Vandergrift met with him and Paul Eiswerth from the Department of Environmental Resources last Thursday at the request of Vandergrift officials.

After communities dragged their heels on separation projects, the authority proceeded with a plan to build holding tanks to capture the sewage. It already has installed flow meters to determine where the largest sewage outflows are. After a data collection period, the authority is scheduled to submit a design plan to the DEP for constructing holding tanks.

But Vandergrift is seeking a delay in that plan since it is now moving forward on a separation project. It is applying through Westmoreland County for a $400,000 federal grant to map its sewer lines.

Kossak said he is trying to schedule a meeting of all 13 communities the authority serves, state lawmakers and federal lawmakers to further discuss meeting the Clean Water Act requirements.

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