DEP consent order aims to identify FTMSA issues by 2022
Delmont Councilman Bill Marx is not happy about signing a consent agreement with no sense of how much it might someday cost the borough.
“I’m going to be honest, it’s a bitter pill to swallow to be told that we have to sign onto this without knowing what it’s going to cost,” Marx said of a consent order with the state Department of Environmental Protection to address system-wide issues with the Franklin Township Municipal Sanitary Authority.
Delmont on Tuesday became the ninth and final entity to OK the agreement, which lays out a roughly eight- to nine-year process to identify and address storm water inflow and infiltration issues throughout the system. Export and Murrysville officials also are part of the agreement.
While the consent order provides a framework and a timeline to address the problem, it does not provide estimates for what the plan could cost.
“This is kind of an order where we’re agreeing to agree, to agree,” Delmont solicitor Dan Hewitt said. “It’s unusual in that we’re agreeing to an order to find out what the problem is, then figuring out what exactly the problem is, then figuring out a way to pay for that problem.”
FTMSA solicitor Wes Long said the importance of getting all nine entities to participate is that “each municipality has to adopt the necessary ordinances to stop inflow and infiltration” in order to comply with the order’s timeline, which will proceed roughly as follows:
- A camera must check each lateral line connecting to properties. Any structural issues discovered must be fixed by the property owner;
- Within four years of signing the agreement, each signatory must perform a smoke-and-dye test of its entire system. Any issues must be remedied within 18 months;
- By May 1, 2020, FTMSA must conduct a minimum of six months of flow monitoring within its system, including the months of March, April and May. FTMSA plans to use about 110 flow monitors to accomplish this, authority officials said.
- By September 2021, FTMSA must submit those flow monitoring results to the DEP;
- By March 2022, FTMSA must prepare a flow model, followed shortly afterward by a sanitary sewer overflow elimination plan, which all of the participating entities will help prepare, and which must be submitted by September 2022.
Part of that elimination plan will include a breakdown of which entities have issues in their respective systems, and how those issues will be addressed. At that point — nearly three years into the consent order’s timeline — a cost component could finally become clear.
Long said that the order itself doesn’t bind any entity to a particular cost.
“What we are to do is figure out the cost,” Long said. “And I imagine if we don’t, the DEP will.”
Long admitted that FTMSA has no idea what that cost might be at this point.
“We don’t know what the flow monitoring will show,” he said. “We have to see what the extent of the problem is.”
He added that while borough officials might be hesitant to agree to the consent order, “I’m not sure what the choice is. Until this is signed off on, no (new sewer tap-ins) will be approved by the DEP. This is coming, folks.”
Once the consent order’s goals have been met, FTMSA officials will submit an updated Act 537 plan — the document that lays out a community’s sewer logistics — for each municipal entity to approve.
For Salem Township resident Ed Rebitch, whose family has had to deal with Delmont sewage overflows on his Rock Springs Road property for more than two decades, the consent order was welcome news.
“It’s refreshing to hear this plan,” Rebitch said. “The flow monitoring especially, I think is the right way to go about it. It’s good to hear we’re getting someplace with this situation.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .