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NBCRSA officials feel borough’s Act 537 Plan is premature in regards to Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy

Tyrone Borough will soon take action on a proposed Act 537 Plan that would require upgrades to the Tyrone Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is being mandated throughout central PA by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ostensibly to restore the environmental quality of the Chesapeake Bay.
The PA Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy (CBTS) is aimed to reduce the nutrient and sediment contributions from the Commonwealth to the Chesapeake Bay.
The unfunded mandate is projected to cost borough residents $3,720,000, and cost all sewer rate payers in central PA as much as $1 billion. Typical user fees are expected to range from approximately $31.50 per month to $42.50 per month (sewer alone) depending on the funding/financing of the project and anticipated power consumption cost increases.
Based on analysis, PennVest provides the most attractive funding/financing for the project.
The Northern Blair County Regional Sewer Authority (NBCRSA) estimates its share of the capital cost of this project to be 26 percent or $955,000. The NBCRSA serves Antis and Snyder Townships, as well as Bellwood Borough. The Tyrone system serves the NBCRSA by means of a sewer service agreement.
Northern Blair customers currently pay $40 a unit per month, but when upgrades occur, customers will be facing sewer rates of $55 per month or even higher.
Surrounding states such as Maryland and Virginia have provided significant amounts of grant funding for its sewage treatment plants to reach compliance. Thus far, Pennsylvania’s costs will fall onto the rate payers.
NBCRSA officials feel the borough’s early consideration and possible adoption of a plan to comply with the mandates of the bay strategy will commit the borough and the surrounding region to requirements that may be modified in the months ahead.
NBCRSA Chairman Robert Schoch stated, “We would request that whatever action the borough takes will allow for amendment and/or modification in the future if the mandates should become less strict.”
“We do not want to be bound to stricter, more expensive requirements because of early action,” added Schoch.
Leo Matuszewski, secretary of treasury for the NBCRSA, feels that the borough is acting “premature” at this point in time on its Act 537 Plan. He says it doesn’t need to be done right now, especially when there is no current funding for the project.
“There is nothing right now that’s so critical saying ‘yes, you do have to do this right now,’ because no you don’t have to,” said Matuszewski. “We’re asking the borough to put this on hold for a year or two and see if monies become available. To me, it’s a common sense, practical thing to do.”
Matuszewski added that the borough is considering that if Team Ten (American Eagle Paper Mill) were to leave, then the borough would not be in compliance. But, he said there is nothing by Team Ten showing that they are even considering leaving.
“If anything, Team Ten is looking forward to expanding the plant and hiring more employees, and I personally talked with these folks and they’d like to go forward,” said Matuszewski. “I can’t see why the borough is trying to factor that into this equation…it doesn’t make any sense.”
President of American Eagle Paper Mill, John Ferner, said that they have been given the special study on the Act 537 Plan by Tyrone Borough.
“We have significant concerns about the study, we’ve expressed our concerns to the borough and we’re waiting for a response,” added Ferner.
NBCRSA officials say its major concern is the financial impact that will fall on the backs of its users. The monies it gets to operate the Authority come from the users – the people who live here. When the increases take place, the debt load will increase dramatically and the rates will increase dramatically to pay the bill.
Matuszewski stated, “We can look anywhere from a 30 percent to 80 percent increase in our sewer bill, and that’s just for the individual. The businesses and local industry will be impacted also, and they have to pay their bills. How do you offset that cost? They either raise the price of their product or service or goods they are manufacturing, or they start laying off people.”
He added, “I think the borough has been misinformed or not properly informed. I don’t know where their source of information is coming from or if they are not interpreting it correctly, but I think they’re going forward with something that doesn’t need to be going forward right now.”
Tyrone Borough Manager Sharon Dannaway responded by saying the bay strategy is a state mandate and the borough is expecting a new permit with more stringent requirements in the next few days from DEP for Tyrone’s treatment plant.
“We’re not happy with this either, but we’re hoping the Northern Blair County Sewer Authority will be an ally with us and write letters to local and state officials about this,” stated Dannaway.
“We’re just following what DEP gives us, as far as deadlines.”
The NBCRSA encourages its rate payers to write to local and state officials to voice concerns about the state mandated PA Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy.