Tyrone moves ahead with Chesapeake Bay strategy

Tyrone Borough Council heard from its consulting engineer, Ray Myers of CET Engineering, earlier this week regarding a program to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay that could cost municipalities substantially.
Council members received a suggested eight-page submission to the Department of Environmental Protection in their packet of information that they receive prior to meetings. The letter concerned a nutrient reduction strategy for the borough as part of a plan designed to improving the quality of the water in the Chesapeake Bay. The plan calls for the reduction of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment by the year 2010. Such particles eventually wind up in the Chesapeake Bay mainly due to rainwater runoff and groundwater.
Several states including Pennsylvania entered into an agreement to deal with the issue and hundreds of municipal treatment plants such as Tyrone’s are affected. Septic systems (estimated at 280,000 in affected states) that aren’t functioning properly also need to be addressed.
The main impact to municipalities will be the cost of maintaining, upgrading and building sewage treatment facilities. The program will also affect agricultural and forested lands.
Myers told council on Monday, “What DEP is requiring is these plants go through a procedure to identify the most cost effective way to make improvements to the plant. DEP is prepared for paying for half of the cost of putting this plan together.”
The cost of Tyrone’s plan was determined to be $29,000. The proposed submission to DEP showed the cost of Tyrone’s plan and requests in writing DEP to reimburse half of it. The submission also included an outline of the plan.
Myers explained, “There may be three or four ways for Tyrone to comply, but the question is what is the most cost effective way.”
Councilwoman Jennifer Bryan asked Myers about a deadline for submission. He told Bryan that DEP had issued a series of letters on the issue. One of the letters sent in December of last year indicated a 180-day deadline. However, Myers said DEP had rescinded the deadline. He explained by rescinding the letter “they didn’t rescind the idea that you had to do the plan, they rescinded the 180 days (to make the submission).”
Myers said DEP has ranked 160 plants as “most important, vital to least important.” Myers said Tyrone was in the “vital” category. He described Tyrone’s plant as “a very large plant going into a high -quality stream.”
Myers explained there was no current schedule being imposed on the borough by DEP. He explained if Tyrone did not make the submission at this point, DEP could later impose a deadline leaving the borough with less time to act.
Myers said he did not think DEP would deny funding if the borough waited until later to make a submission. The borough’s cost for the “special study” would be paid through the general sewer fund.
After Myers had answered a number of questions from council members, they voted to make the submission to DEP.
The Daily Herald reported last year that Governor Ed Rendell has pledged $8.2 billion dollars toward the overall nutrient reduction effort.
Last year, Myers pointed out that wastewater treatment facilities are creating a small fraction of the problem yet municipalities have no choice in implementation. The vast majority of the sources for nitrogen and phosphorus come from entities that are being asked to voluntarily remedy the problem.
In July of last year, Myers said municipal facilities that haven’t been upgraded since 1990 will not meet the new requirements. Newer facilities may only be able to deal with some of the requirements without making costly upgrades. Municipalities will also be faced not only with installing and maintaining technology but also staying within the new levels. When permits are issued and levels are set, a wastewater plant will be required to stay within the new requirements for the life of the plant. Myers explained a plant increasing capacity would still be required to meet the reduction for nitrogen and phosphorus. In the past, a plant could get new permits that would allow for an increase in certain discharges.
Myers said municipalities could expect costs of $9 to 17 million a year under the new requirements. He said the costs would translate into residents seeing an increase of $10 to $20 a month in their sewage bills.
Last year, borough officials said costs for initial upgrades were estimated at $14 to $16 million with no estimate for the cost on a yearly basis to maintain the new requirements.