Upper Providence Township Sewer Authority
Sewer Project-------- FAQ’S
The following are either quoted or paraphrased questions or comments raised by Township Residents regarding the up coming sewer project. We have also included answers to questions from past projects that are applicable. This document will be continually up-dated as more questions and comments are received. This document cannot replace other avenues of communication. We encourage residents to attend the monthly Authority meetings, the special meetings for those in the construction areas, or call Dick Spielman or Pat Hall at our office.
1. The letter I just received is the first I have heard of new sewers. Why weren’t we kept informed?
Response: The project to provide sewer service to the entire Township has been a “work in progress” for many years. In fact, it has been the subject at most of the Sewer Authority meetings and many Township Council meetings for years. Information is readily available at the monthly, public Sewer Authority meetings, the Township web site where the Sewer Authority meeting minutes are posted, and a phone call to the Authority office. In addition there have been other communications in recent years including articles in the Daily Times and mail from people seeking public office.
2. The Authority claims that part of the reason for this project is, “to help protect our environment.” Isn’t it true that a properly constructed and maintained septic system poses no more danger to the environment than public sewage treatment facilities?
Response: First of all, many of the on-site systems in our Township are not built to current standards and most are not maintained as required by Township Ordinance and Pa. DEP recommendations. In fact, most people think that as long as their on-site system is not over flowing or backing up it is working properly. The fact is that on-site systems have and will continue to fail. The consequences of these failures are health threats to the owner and neighbors, possible contamination of ground water supplies, and very expensive replacement. As required by the Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act (Act 537), every municipality in Pa. must develop and submit to DEP a comprehensive plan to address current and future sewage disposal needs. In the long term, the best and most effective way to dispose of sewage is a public sewer system. Also, the DEP, based on Federal EPA rules and regulations, establishes treatment criteria so that the out flow from sewage treatment plants is safe to be released back into the environment.
3. Doesn’t the Authority know that there is a recession and this project will be difficult for many to afford?
Response: The Authority’s volunteer members are keenly aware of the current economic conditions. In fact, many of the Authority members live in the project area and will be required to pay the same fees and connect to the new sewer system just like everyone else. However, there are aspects of the current economy that will help lower the cost of this project, such as low interest rates and a very favorable construction bidding environment. From a philosophical view, if government and industry continue to put off spending, the recession will only continue. Projects such as this sewer project are in fact good for the economy and provide jobs for companies and employees. In addition, this Authority and the Township have a considerable financial commitment for long term treatment capacity, the acquisition of which was initiated long before the current recession. We understand that the cost for homeowners to connect is substantial. We encourage homeowners to investigate financing alternatives with their bank or credit union.
4. How can the Sewer Authority force residents to connect if their current system is working fine and they don’t want to?
Response: State Law gives the Township the authority to enact a “duty to connect” ordinance. The Township does have such an ordinance, which states, in part, that each and every owner of property accessible to, and whose principal building is within 250 feet of a new sewer extension shall connect …
As a practical matter, utility infrastructure such as sewers is not something that you can build to serve a percentage of the people and then upgrade every few years, as more people want to connect. Such an approach is cost prohibitive. Thus when such a system is provided, everyone is required to connect to keep the cost to all at a reasonable level.
5. Why is Mr. Donze doing this?
Response: While Mr. Donze is the current Chairman of the Upper Providence Township Sewer Authority and as such signed the informational letter to residents in the project area, the actions and decisions of the Authority are the result of the collective wisdom of the current 7 member Authority and in many cases by previous Authority members. In addition to a Board of seven, (7) volunteers with diverse backgrounds, consultants provide expertise in the areas of engineering, law, financing, and ratemaking. In addition, construction of this project will be overseen by an Operations Manager with 40 years of experience in utility operations, construction, and maintenance.
6. I am not aware that there has been any provision for public comment on the plan.
Response: In addition to all of the actions of the Authority, which are conducted at the monthly, public meetings, the ACT 537 plan which must be approved by the Pa. DEP, was advertised in the Daily Times as being available at the Township Building for public comment.
7. I do not share the Sewer Authority’s contention that a central sewer system is better for the local ecology; I have read far too many stories of such systems overflowing, breaking down, or beyond capacity, or simply leaking, and causing terrible problems.
Response: What you don’t read about are accounts of the failures of on-site systems. While it is true that any mechanical system, including public sewer systems, can fail, the fact is that most of the severe problems that plagued some municipal sewer systems have been addressed by modern EPA and DEP regulations and enforcement. Unlike individual on-site systems, the operation of public sewer systems is monitored by the DEP. While it is always possible to find examples to the contrary, the fact is that public sewer systems are better for the environment because their operation is monitored for proper performance and they are generally kept in a good state of repair. There is no such monitoring of on-site systems.
8. Why are you installing a low-pressure system (LPSS) versus a gravity system?
Response: Typically a low-pressure system is installed at shallow depths of 36”. The shallow depth allows for directional boring of the mains, which is significantly cheaper than the trenching of deeper, 8” gravity mains and manholes. Estimates and actual bids received from other projects within the Township show the cost for a LPSS can be as little as 60% of the cost of a gravity system. Also, a LPSS is not subject to infiltration from ground water or from surface water entering the system through pipe joints and manholes.
9. What type of pump will be installed?
Response: The proposed pump is a progressive cavity 1 horsepower 240-volt grinder pump. The grinder pump grinds the sewage into a finely ground slurry which ultimately discharges into small diameter pressure pipes.
10. How much will the pump cost me?
Response: The Upper Providence Township Sewer Authority will be paying for the actual pump. However, the pump and lateral are installed by the customer’s contractor.
11. Will financing be available?
Response: Financing will not be provided by Upper Providence Township Sewer Authority. This Authority does not have the resources to do credit checks or undertake collection activity. In addition, the rate the Authority would have to charge would probably not be competitive with established lending institutions.
12. Who will be responsible for operation and maintenance of the pump?
Response: Upper Providence Township Sewer Authority will provide maintenance on the pumps. It should be noted that misuse of the pump that causes damage would be at the customer’s expense.
13. Where will the pump be located?
Response: The pump will be installed outside the home in the general area of the existing septic tank or cesspool. In general, the pump should be at least 10 feet from the house and can be as far away as about 90 feet.
14. How much power will the pump use?
Response: Monthly power consumption of a grinder pump station is substantially less than that of most other major appliances. This is comparable to the cost associated with the operation of a 100-watt light bulb or small refrigerator. Based on current electric rates, the cost would be between $1.00 and $3.50 per month depending on the size of the family.
15. What will happen to my pump during power outages?
Response: The proposed grinder pumps will have some excess holding capacity to provide wastewater storage during most electrical power outages. Please keep in mind that when power outages are experienced, the average consumption of water significantly decreases. Water usage during an outage should be kept to a minimum.
16. How will I know if there is a problem with my pump and whom would I call if I do experience problems?
Response: All pumps will be equipped with an audible and visual alarm. The alarm is incorporated in a small panel, which is typically located on the side of the home in a place readily visible. The control panel cannot be located inside a shed, garages, or other building. In the event that the alarm goes off, the maintenance contractor, whose name and phone number will be provided on the control panel, should be contacted. This service is paid for by the Authority.
17. What do I need to do with my existing septic system?
Response: The existing septic tanks and/or cesspools must be pumped out by a licensed wastewater hauler. The tanks must also have holes punched in the bottom prior to backfilling with suitable material. All lids must be removed from the existing tanks.
18. Will you be disturbing my property (ex: driveways, landscaping) during the installation of the system?
Response: If the mains are installed utilizing direct boring, there will be minimum disturbance to driveways, yards, etc. Also, the contractor will be required to video tape all existing features prior to installation of the sewer main. This will further ensure that any disturbed areas will be restored.
19. Will there be any odors associated with the pump?
Response: The grinder pump is water tight and sealed. There should be no odors associated with the pumps.
20. What will the pump look like when it is installed?
Response: Only the top of the pump will be visible above the ground and the top is a round, light green, fiberglass lid. While access to the pump must be maintained, landscaping is often used to screen the installation.
21. Will I be able to use my existing basement-plumbing configuration?
Response: No rearrangement of the plumbing will be required for the installation of the pumps. However if you don’t currently have basement fixtures and would like to install a powder room or laundry room, this would be a perfect time to provide for such facilities. If you have such an interest, consult your plumber.
22. What type of power will be required for the installation of the pump?
Response: A 30 amp., 240 volt, single-phase circuit is required for the installation of the pump. The pump installation contractor will determine if your power supply is adequate. In the vast majority of cases, your current electric distribution panel, commonly known as fuse box or breaker panel, do not have to be up graded or replaced.
23. Will my taxes increase when sewers are installed?
Response: Many people do not understand the relationship between the Sewer Authority and the Township Government. The Sewer Authority and the Township Government are two separate and distinct entities. The Township Council created the Authority years ago to build, manage, and maintain the public sewers in our Township. The operation of the sewer system is paid for entirely by sewer rates paid by the users of the system. No tax dollars are used for the operation of the Authority. Unlike the Township Council members who are elected to office, the seven Sewer Authority Board members are volunteers who are appointed by the Township Council. The Council tries to select people from each district in our Township so that all areas of the Township are represented on the Sewer Authority Board. While by State law the Sewer Authority Board has specific authority to conduct the business of building, operating and maintaining the sewer system, the Authority does work with Township Council for the benefit of our community.
Prepared by: Dick Spielman