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Tyrone Borough officials seek community involvement with costly ‘Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy’

By now, many people may have read or heard something about new and costly municipal sewage treatment plant upgrades that are being mandated throughout central Pennsylvania by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ostensibly to restore the environmental quality of the Chesapeake Bay.
The Borough of Tyrone wastewater treatment facility serves the borough and sewered areas of Snyder and Antis Township, plus Bellwood Borough, all in Blair County. The Tyrone system serves the Northern Blair County Regional Sewer Authority by means of a sewer service agreement.
The PA Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy (CBTS) is a policy implemented by the DEP as a comprehensive approach to reduce the nutrient and sediment contributions from the Commonwealth to the Chesapeake Bay.
This plan serves as an evaluation of alternatives to upgrade the Tyrone plant with the strategy, and will also serve as a supplement to the borough’s Act 537 Plan.
While the goal is laudable, borough council members are fully supportive of necessary and responsible measures to improve the environment. Many questions regarding both the huge cost and effectiveness of this unfunded mandate – now projected to cost Tyrone Borough residents at least $4,000,000 and cost all sewer rate payers in central Pennsylvania as much as $1 billion – remain unanswered.
The total project cost is estimated to be $3,730,000. Typical user fees are expected to range from approximately $31.20 per month to $42.50 per month (sewer alone) depending on the funding/financing of the project and anticipated power consumption cost increases.
Presently, there is no state funding.
Based on analysis, PennVest provides the most attractive funding/financing, and PennVest will be pursued. Based on the funding source (PennVest loan or bond issue) and future power costs, the range of possible user cost increases will be $8 per month if a loan is secured, and $18.50 a month if a bond is secured.
Kevin Nester of CET Engineering Services in Huntingdon and Tyrone Borough’s engineer said, “There’s no grant funds available; only limited low interest loans are available.”
Superintendent of Tyrone’s wastewater treatment plant Tim Nulton said this project is important to the state because it wants to get the nitrogen/phosphorus nutrient pollution removed from the river it’s going into and ultimately ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. But, he questions the validity in terms of sewer plants being the problem.
“It’s very expensive for treatment plants to do this and for the sewer customers to pay for it,” said Nulton. “We’re not so sure if they remove just sewer plants, it’s going to be a benefit to the bay, because they’re telling us most of the nitrogen/phosphorus is coming from farmland more so than discharge from wastewater treatment plants.”
Tyrone Borough Manager Sharon Dannaway is urging residents to show concern about this issue because it’s an unfunded mandate from the state, and other states around PA such as Maryland and Virginia, along with the Washington D.C. area, have provided state funds for the sewer plants in those states that need to comply.
“At this point, it’s going to fall on the backs of the rate payers,” said Dannaway.
She added, “Residents need to express their concern to their elected state and federal officials. The borough has passed a resolution in December and residents are welcomed to come into the borough office for a copy of it to send along with a letter to the elected officials of their choice.”
Even though Tyrone Borough has moved forward toward implementation of DEP’s directives, borough council has joined with the 34 municipal member Capital Region Council of Governments in approving a resolution calling on all of the elected state and federal officials to impose a moratorium on further implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy, until a state or federal funding source is made available, and until the effectiveness of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort can be assured.
Fundamental questions that remain unanswered to write to state and federal officials are:
(1) Why are local municipal rate payers being forced to pay all of the $1 billion cost of these sewage treatment plant upgrades when this is a state regulatory mandate dictated without input from locally elected officials or local citizens and taxpayers – and other states engaged in this multi-state effort have enacted state funding mechanisms?
(2) Why is this $1 billion expenditure necessary, in any event, since it is only expected to reduce the targeted nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient pollution by as little as five percent and there is little evidence that sufficient steps are being taken to reduce such nutrient pollution in runoff from the major agricultural and forest sources; thereby defeating the intended goal of restoration of the environmental quality of the Chesapeake Bay?
Again, borough officials are asking area residents to voice their concerns over this probable rate increase. Please write to state and federal officials.