Sewer hookup ban lifted in Pa.

borough to pay $20K

October 24, 2007|By DON AINES

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The issue: An Aug. 16 ban on new sewer hookups affected Chambersburg and Greene, Guilford and Hamilton townships, resulting in almost no permits being issued for new construction.

What's new: The borough voted Monday night to sign an agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to pay a $20,000 fine and take corrective action on flaws to its treatment system that resulted in several sewage plant overflows in the past five years.

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Two months after it went into effect, a moratorium on sewer connections in Chambersburg and three neighboring townships was lifted Tuesday, although the borough will have to pay a $20,000 penalty, according to the agreement.

"Everything is back to normal," Borough Council President William McLaughlin said Tuesday after the council voted unanimously Monday night in favor of an agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. "CCIS (Commonwealth Code Inspection Services) should have been in a position to start issuing permits today."


"We have been processing things all along and forwarding them to CCIS," McLaughlin said of the subdivision and land development plans that precede the issuing of building permits.

"I know there was a plan or two that came in this morning ... but they're not knocking down the door yet," Greene Township Zoning Officer Travis Brookens said. Unlike Chambersburg, the township had not accepted subdivision plans for projects requiring sewer connections since the ban went into effect.

The soft market for new housing will play a role in what kind of surge in development the township will see in the near term, Brookens said.

On Aug. 16, DEP banned new sewer connections in Chambersburg and Greene, Guilford and Hamilton townships, among the fastest developing municipalities in Franklin County. In a June 20 letter to the borough, DEP cited 14 instances between March 2003 and April 2007 in which the borough reported untreated sewage bypassing the plant.

The corrective action taken by the borough included upgrading undersized heaters on aerators at the sewer plant, which prevented equipment from operating at peak capacity during extremely wet weather. The equipment has since been upgraded, according to the borough.

"Chambersburg admitted that it has not operated the plant in storm flow mode during rainfall events for years," the consent order and agreement stated. The plant is permitted an average daily flow of 6.8 million gallons with a peak flow of 17 million gallons, it stated.

The borough was not cited for overflows in June 2006 and September 2004 because those resulted from declared flooding emergencies, nor for incidents in April and November 2006 associated with mechanical failures.

The order also requires the boroughs and the townships to come up with a flow metering plan to identify major sources of inflow and infiltration into the system's hundreds of miles of lines. A connection accounting system, with yearly projections on new connections over a five-year period, must also be submitted to DEP, the order states.

If an overflow occurs again, the prohibition on connections is to be reinstated, unless it occurs during a declared emergency, the order states.

Earlier this month, a Chambersburg developer said he had just three building permits left from before the ban on a 75-lot subdivision.

No building permits for houses were issued in Chambersburg in September, according to the county Tax Assessment Office. That compared to 34 permits with a construction value of $5.75 million in September 2006, according to county Planning Department statistics.

Greene Township issued no housing construction permits last month, compared to a dozen worth $4.4 million a year earlier, according to Tax Assessment and Planning Department records. Between them, Guilford and Hamilton townships had three new home construction permits in September.

"There were five projects in Greene Township alone that were just brought to a screeching halt by the ban. All residential ... In some cases streets were even built," said Lance Kegerreis, president of Dennis E. Black Engineering in Chambersburg. Those projects totaled upwards of 200 lots, he said.

"The speed at which the moratorium was lifted is commendable. There were certainly fears that it might have lasted longer than that," he said.

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