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ACT 537 sewage plan gets public airing in Warriors Mark

Last night, Warriors Mark Supervisors and residents got a chance to learn more about the township’s proposed ACT 537 sewage facilities plan update.
A draft of the plan was given to board members and copies of a plan summary were distributed to those attending last night’s meeting. The supervisors and the public also heard presentations regarding the proposed plan created by the township’s engineering firm, Keller Engineers.
“The proposed solution to sewage disposal in the township is a comprehensive on-lot management plan,” said Mark Haefner of Keller Engineers. “The apparent absence of malfunctions, coupled with the impractical costs of implementation has ruled out any form of public wastewater system at this time.”
Haefner said, “that’s what it boils down to” after quoting from the plan summary.
The plan update is being pursued by the township after the Department of Environmental Protection requested it do so. The township decided to go forward with the update voluntarily rather than waiting to be mandated to do it by the DEP.
The plan summary noted the majority of the township is served by on-lot disposal and, in general, sewage facilities in the area are in good condition.
Using mailed surveys to residents, soil ratings, lot sizes and a follow-up field view, on lot systems were categorized. Only six percent were flagged as malfunctions, either suspected or confirmed. The report did show 77 percent of the on-lot systems had potential problems.
The plan summary also noted well sampling revealed a fair amount of problems outside the public water service area. The summary noted the problems are not necessarily the result of on-lot system malfunction because of “the strong agricultural background in the township.”
The cost for implementing an on-lot management system would be paid for by the residents. The plan summary said the township could expect some additional administrative responsibilities, but an increase in expenses would be minimal. No tax increase is expected using the on-lot plan.
The plan recommends a three-year pumping and inspection cycle. The township would be divided into three pumping districts. Each year, on a rotating basis, residents in each district would have to have their on-lot system pumped and inspected.
The estimated cost for pumping was given as $180 per user. No estimate by the township or its engineering firm was given for the cost of an inspection. However, Warriors Mark resident and developer John Gilliland said he estimated costs for pumping and inspection at $300 combined.
At one point, township officials said they did not intend on charging an inspection fee unless septage haulers who would be designated by the township to do the pumping work charged for it. Haulers would need to complete training to be an authorized pumper in the township.
The plan summary also detailed costs of the option to use public sewage treatment. There were four alternatives listed. The low-end projected monthly cost was listed at $85 while the high-end monthly cost was listed as $158. A low-pressure system serving all subdivisions was determined to be the most cost effective. That alternative had a range of $90 to $140 for a water customer. The plan summary noted the cost would be approximately twice the rate paid by customers to other systems in the area.
During public comment, residents raised a number of concerns. One issue was the choice to use a three-year cycle for the pumping and inspection.
Sewage Enforcement Officer Ralph Houck said the three-year cycle is used statewide for good maintenance. Some on-lot systems may need pumped every year while others might need pumped once every five or six years. The three-year cycle was considered an average. Later, it was noted the three-year cycle is one that DEP would expect municipalities to use in the on-lot maintenance plan.
Another representative of Keller Engineers, David Cunningham, said additional comments from planning and environmental agencies needed to be incorporated into the plan. Supervisors agreed to have the plan made available to the public. The draft presented to the board did not include certain background material. The actual plan is more than 500 pages. Cunningham presented that copy, which is the one that would be available for public inspection.
The board said the copy would be made available by appointment at the township office at the Warriors Mark-Franklin Fire Department. The township will advertise the availability of the proposed ACT 537 plan at which time a 30-day written comment period will also commence. Written comments will receive a response and the comments and responses will be incorporated into the plan.
There was mention of possibly scheduling another public input session or hearing after the public comment period. However, later in the meeting, Cunningham said such a hearing was not required. After the public comment period, township supervisors could vote on submitting the plan to DEP. The soonest that would happen is the August meeting, according to a time schedule listed in the plan summary.
The summary said the soonest the plan would be implemented was April of next year if it is adopted by the supervisors and approved by DEP.