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Irwin sewer project costs jump $500,000

| Friday, May 4, 2012, 10:02 a.m.

Irwin Council was presented a bitter pill Wednesday in the form of a new $5.2 million estimate to meet federal and state mandates to separate sanitary and storm sewers.

That figure is some $500,000 higher than the initial $4.7 million estimate presented less than a year ago.

"These are today's costs. They are going to increase over time," said engineer Lucian Bove last night. "There is a lot of gravity to this matter and the costs show it."

Bove said the figure represents a three-phase separation project but does not include preconstruction mapping, videotaping of the sewer lines, implementation and monitoring of the system. He estimated the cost of that portion of the project at $547,400.

Bove said the state Department of Environmental Protection had offered municipalities grants of up to 50 percent of the costs, but had already dispensed the $50 million it set aside for that funding.

"We're hoping they can come up with more. If you get half, that is very fortunate, so we need to contact our legislators and see if anyone can give us some help," he said.

Bove will travel to Harrisburg on May 24 to attend a PennVEST public meeting so the borough could be considered for a low-cost loan.

Council President Danyce Neal asked if there would be any direct cost to residents.

Bove said there is a chance some residents would have to pay approximately $2,000 for replacement of lateral lines if they are in disrepair.

Neal said the cost would be a hardship for many residents, especially senior citizens.

Bove said those repairs would not occur until after all the sewer separation projects are complete. At that time, those repairs may stave off costly fixes for homeowners, at least temporarily.

"Separating the sewers may reduce the urgency to replace lateral lines in town," he said.

On related matters, council approved an ordinance requiring a certificate of compliance for the sanitary sewer connection prior to the sale of property, and an ordinance creating a sewer lateral testing policy.

Solicitor Alan Berk said the ordinances are mandated by the state and federal agencies.

Bove said the borough does not have to actively enforce the ordinances yet, but having them on the books will assist in obtaining grants and loans for the project.

Neal said residents need to know all these measures are designed to meet requirements of the mandate. "This is not something we thought of because we have nothing better to do. We are mandated and if we don't comply with this, we'll be fined," she said.

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