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Pa. officials seek quick fix for water treatment plant

August 24, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Flow meters, infiltration and inflow reductions, upgrades to the existing Chambersburg Wastewater Treatment Plant and a larger treatment plant in the future will be part of a corrective action plan Chambersburg and surrounding townships will submit to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to get a ban on new sewer connections lifted.

The borough, Guilford, Greene and Hamilton townships earlier this month were instructed by the DEP to "prohibit new connections to the overloaded sewage facilities." The letter requested the plan be submitted within 90 days.

Putting together a plan will take about a month, said Chambersburg Sewer and Water Superintendent Carl Rundquist, who met Thursday with representatives of the township municipal authorities that share the regional system. Rundquist said he did not know how long the DEP might need to review and approve the plan, which will include estimates of how many new connections the municipalities will need while the corrective actions are being taken.

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"We're hoping to get this phase concluded as soon as possible ... and it will be enough to get the moratorium lifted," Borough Council President William McLaughlin said.

"This is a very big deal because it brings development in the borough and surrounding townships to a halt," Franklin County Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross said.

"We're going to submit one together ... and it's going to have an extensive flow metering program," Rundquist said. The meters will gauge the amount and areas of greatest inflow and infiltration into the system during heavy rains, he said.

The meters also can measure the effectiveness of steps taken to reduce inflow and infiltration, Rundquist said.

Reducing infiltration is only part of a solution, Rundquist said. All sewer systems have infiltration and the terra cotta pipes below the borough's streets are almost a century old, he said.

"It's hard to do infiltration and inflow and see a lot of success," Rundquist said. The ultimate solution will be a new treatment plant, an 11 million gallon per day facility that is still in planning.

In the meantime, Rundquist said the borough and townships can look at making upgrades to the existing plant, built in 1998 for about $20 million and which has a permitted average daily flow of 6.8 million gallons.

The existing system, which can treat a maximum of 17 million gallons in a day, overloaded just once in 2006, when heavy rains resulted in widespread flooding between June 26 and 28.

"I don't understand why DEP decided to take action this strong this quick," McLaughlin said.

"In the 16 years I've been on the council, we've had an ongoing program to control infiltration and inflow into the system," McLaughlin said. "We have not solved the problem, but we'll continue to work on it until we've met the criteria set by DEP."

"You have contractors, developers and home builders that really got caught by surprise on this and they really want an answer," Ross said. "The overloads have only been at times of very heavy rains and, from what I understand, there's never been any conversation that a sanction might be coming."

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