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Plant upgrade could cost $25M

February 24, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERBURG, Pa. -- The cost of complying with Chesapeake Bay Strategy requirements for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus levels at the Chambersburg wastewater treatment plant could be between $10 million and $25 million depending on which of four options are eventually adopted.

The Chambersburg Borough Council on Monday reviewed a draft of an Act 527 plan that looks to address the issue of nutrients entering waterways that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. The council authorized the borough to advertise the draft for public comment.

Whichever option the borough eventually adopts, it is supposed to be operational by 2013, said Sewer and Water Superintendent Carl Rundquist.

The plant also serves Guilford, Greene and Hamilton townships, all of which are trying to reach an intergovernmental agreement on how to comply with a consent degree from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The department imposed a temporary moratorium on new development in the borough and townships in 2007 because the system was occasionally overwhelmed in periods of heavy rain.

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The least-expensive option is to upgrade the plant to remove the required amounts of nutrients, which would cost $9.8 million, said Michael Schober, vice president of Buchart Horn, the engineering firm making the presentation. However, that would also require "nutrient trading," which is buying pollution credits from other treatment facilities within the basin, to stay within required levels, he said.

Doing so would cost another $580,000 a year over the $9.8 million, assuming the nutrient credits sell for $5 a pound, according to the engineering firm presentation. That cost could go higher and Rundquist said few treatment facilities within the region are looking at the option as a long-term solution.

Another option would be to expand treatment capacity from 6.8 million gallons a day to 10.83 million gallons. Without additional expenditures for nitrogen and phosphorus removal, that would cost $20.6 million, Schober said.

Expanding and upgrading the plant would cost more than $25 million, Schober said. A fourth option of improving the plant's solids handling, which would reduce the quantity of solids produced and the cost of disposal, would cost almost $14 million, he said.

How much of the cost of a project would be borne by the borough and townships depends on whether state funding is granted through Pennsylvania's H2O PA program for water quality projects, Borough Manager Eric Oyer said.

Financing the options could cost the borough's 6,700 sewer customers from $21 to $38 a year more for service, according to a summary of the draft. Depending on the alternative chosen, the borough would bear 19 percent to 40 percent of the cost with the rest being split between the townships.

The draft plan does not address another problem with the system, the infiltration of water into the system, primarily through cracks in the sewer lines. Rundquist said infiltration "is not an easy nut to crack" and affects all sewer systems.

Sealing one crack often just results in groundwater seeking some other point of entry, he said.

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