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New Chesapeake Bay Commission board member: 'Reasonableness' sought with nutrient rules

G. Warren Elliott addressed the Franklin County Council of Governments at its meeting Wednesday

January 22, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — New Chesapeake Bay Commission board member G. Warren Elliott sought to reassure Franklin County, Pa., leaders last week that the commission is seeking "reasonableness" with new requirements for nutrients.

Municipalities are affected by nutrient requirements because of their wastewater treatment plants. They are restricted in the amount of phosphorus and nitrogens they can discharge from the plants.

For some, meeting increasingly more-stringent regulations will mean costly upgrades to plants.

"It's just too expensive in light of the recessionary times," Washington Township (Pa.) Manager Mike Christopher said.

Elliott, a former Franklin County Commissioner, addressed the Franklin County Council of Governments at its meeting Wednesday. Council of Governments meetings bring together municipal, county and school leaders for presentations on issues.

Elliott said he's served on the Chesapeake Bay Commission board for five weeks. He said the board doesn't create regulations, but works with state legislatures for consistency among regulations that impact the bay.

For instance, Elliott said the Chesapeake Bay Commission is looking at fertilizer on turf and chicken food in which the animals digest phosphorus.

"There are a lot of little things," Elliott said.

Bay cleanup is important, but municipal systems are an easy target for expensive upgrades because they are required to be permitted, Christopher said.

"We seem to be getting hammered with upgrades to our sewer treatment plants when we're only 15 percent of the problem," he said.

Antrim Township Supervisor Fred Young said his municipality's plant was upgraded within the past 10 years and is "in good shape for the foreseeable future." Like Christopher, he said he has concerns about the runoff from grass or agricultural land.

"How do you prevent those fertilizers or phosphates from getting into the streams?" Young asked.

Mont Alto Borough Councilman Dennis Monn said bids have been accepted for $2 million worth of upgrades at the municipal plant, which was built in 1974.

"It's not only for meeting (Chesapeake Bay requirements), but it's because our plant is falling apart," Monn said.

Although the borough is seeking grant money for the work, Monn said some or all of the cost could be passed on to the 650 customers.

"We've already increased the rates to pay for it," he said.

The Borough of Waynesboro increased rates 15 percent last August to pay for the engineering and early stages of $11.4 million worth of upgrades to the sewer treatment plant. The borough has 6,000 sewer customers.

Washington Township Municipal Authority Manager Sean McFarland said the authority last week received its permit detailing what can be discharged after 2013.

"Our engineering firm is in the process of design," McFarland said of adding an alum tank and pumps.

The upgrades should cost about $750,000 for phosphorus discharge changes, he said.

Elliott said the Chesapeake Bay Commission is a link between the Environmental Protection Agency, states and municipalities. Elliott, also a member of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, said he feels it is important to control sediments and secure access to clean water.

"I think our future is going to be all about water. ... There are a lot more issues with our water than what's coming out of our wastewater treatment plants and what's coming off our farms," he said.

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