Salem family still seeking solution to Delmont sewage overflows on their property
Ed Rebitch of Salem Township has an easy solution to ending more than two decades of Delmont Borough sewage overflowing onto his property.
“The borough should lock down all of the manholes leading to Delmont,” Rebitch told council members at their March meeting. “Or you could install a pinch valve. Me and (the borough public works head) Bill Heaps could do it in a couple of hours, but (the police chief) would come and arrest me, because I'd be causing damage to the borough of Delmont — the exact damage that Delmont has been doing to our property, unabated, for the past 25 years.”
A force main and gravity sewer line run through his property, off Rock Springs Road. Rebitch said there are two major issues:
• The force main line is being compromised by the acidic, corrosive soil and has sprung multiple leaks, causing sewage to bubble up onto the property and requiring multiple fixes to the line.
• Infiltration and inflow into the gravity sewer line — essentially, stormwater making its way into the sewage system — causes manholes on the property to discharge raw sewage directly onto the Rock Springs Trust property, and into a creek that runs to the Beaver Run Reservoir, the primary drinking-water source for Westmoreland County.
Over the years, a creek on the property has been both shifted and eroded by stormwater runoff, according to Rebitch's wife Julie, exposing and crossing over the sewage lines in multiple locations. During several days of heavy rain in late February, multiple manholes discharged a mix of raw sewage and stormwater for hours on end.
“I think it'd probably be easier for Bill to count the hours the manholes weren't discharging,” Julie Rebitch said.
Delmont solicitor Dan Hewitt said borough officials have submitted “stacks” of information to the state Department of Environmental Protection about the situation.
“We know what the law is,” Rebitch said. “The Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law is clear on what needs done here.”
Whatever the potential remedy, borough officials are not willing to discuss it publicly.
“We are working on a plan with our engineer, and that's all the comment I'm going to make,” borough council President Andrew Shissler said.
The borough's engineer, Gary Baird of Lennon Smith Souleret Engineering, refused to comment on the situation at council's March 13 meeting.
DEP officials were similarly vague about what the future holds for the property.
“Delmont is responsible for ceasing unauthorized discharges from its system,” said DEP community relations coordinator Lauren Fraley. “DEP is continuing to negotiate a solution with Delmont and other municipal entities with interconnected systems on measures to prevent discharges as well as the long term and permanent fixes required for a comprehensive resolution. This matter has the full attention of the DEP as it continues to unravel and track down the cause of this situation.”
Rebitch said he is concerned that his family is being singled out and discriminated against.
“There are additional manholes, further down the line at lower elevations, and they do not discharge like this,” he said.
Rebitch received borough permission to work with Heaps to have manholes on the Rock Springs property and the adjacent property inspected.
The Rebitch family has been documenting the issues on their property at a website they created, DelmontSewageIssue.com .
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.