A sewer project planned for two sections of Neshannock Township and its potential costs to homeowners will be the topic at a public meeting planned for 6 p.m. Thursday.

The township supervisors, sewer engineer and solicitor will host the informational meeting at Hutchison Community Center in Pearson Park regarding construction and potential costs of the project. The township officials also plan to give residents easements to sign to allow grinder pumps to be put on their properties.

The Highland Park/Blews Acres sewer project will involve 76 homes that will be connected to the township’s sanitary sewer lines.

Township Supervisor and secretary Leslie S. Bucci said the township sent notices to the residents to attend Thursday’s meeting. The notices were sent  to the names on the properties or current residents, she said. 

Bucci explained that the project will involve connecting the homes at the ends of multiple streets, where the existing sewer lines did not extend when they were first installed years ago. Those homes all will be required to have grinder pump systems on their properties to pump the flow to the existing sewer lines, she explained. Low-pressure force sewer mains will extend the sewer system to use the grinder pumps. 

The two-phase project will involve connecting the 41 homes on Blews Way off of Painter Hill, and the 35 homes on the Highland Park side involving streets that run east off Highland Avenue. They include Faddis, Falls, Evergreen, Lawnview, Fairgreen, Ridgelawn and Bon Air avenues and Summit View Drive.

The project will be done at the tail end of those roads that initially weren’t connected to the sewers, Bucci said, adding that the township does not have an exact price tag for the project until it receives bids for construction.

The project is part of the township’s Act 537 plan, under which the goal of the state Department of Environmental Protection is to make sure all of the populated areas of the community have sanitary sewers, Bucci said.

Information provided to the township by its sewer engineer, Mott MacDonald of Pittsburgh, explained that in 2013, driven by a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) consent order, the township completed a minor Act 537 Sewage Facility Planning Update.

A sewer “needs assessment” identified a high percentage of malfunctioning on-lot sewage systems in the Highland Park area and Blews Acres residential developments, the report said, and various means of addressing the sewage needs of the two areas were explored and presented in the planning update.

Ultimately, the method chosen to address the malfunctioning on-lot septic systems is to extend the existing sewer system through the construction of low-pressure sewers.  

MacDonald wrote that the Highland Park area — off Highland Avenue — is comprised of all dead-end streets.

Each street there has an existing sewer line, but due to topographical constraints, those lines do not extend the entire length of the streets, the engineer wrote.

The Blews Way development is accessed off Maitland Lane, and no additional residential units are expected to be built in this area, the engineer noted. An existing gravity sewer main on Maitland Lane runs past the entrance to the development, but topographical constraints preclude the use of gravity sewers to convey flows to that line. The project as proposed would use a low-pressure collection and conveyance system to connect the development to the existing gravity sewer on Maitland Lane.

“This is one area in the township’s plan that was next in line,” Bucci said.

In preparation, the township about two years ago upgraded the Highland lift station at the bottom of Coaltown Hill to accept the additional flow from those side streets, and the Maitland Lane lift station at the top of the hill was upgraded to accept the additional flow from Blews Acres, she explained. 

Bucci said that the township’s sewage enforcement officer, Mourice Waltz Consultants, conducted surveys many years ago of the septic tank malfunction rate in those areas.

Because all of the homes will need grinder pumps on their properties, the township and its solicitor, attorney Louis M. Perrotta, is working on getting the residents to sign property easements. While they will individually own the grinder pump systems, the easements give the township a right of way to repair them if the property owner does not take that responsibility.

Bucci said that DEP and the Lawrence County Conservation District already have approved the drawings for the project, done by MacDonald as the  township sanitary sewer engineer. The township will advertise for construction bids once all of its easements are secured, she said.

Should the property owners refuse to sign the easements, it would become a situation of eminent domain, she said.

Bucci said the construction will be partially financed with money left from a bond issue it floated for the pump station project two years ago.

The township was unable to secure a PennVEST grant or loan, and it had unsuccessfully applied for a PA Small Water and Sewer grant, she said.

As as result, the township will charge each of the homeowners a tap-in fee of $2,350.

The property owners also will be responsible for:

•Connecting their homes to the grinder pumps.

•Connecting their electric to electrical panels on their houses to provide power for the grinder pumps.

•Having their existing septic systems properly filled in by someone who is licensed to do so.

The actual construction costs will be divided among 76 homes and the township will have an amortization schedule, where the property owners will be billed over a 20-year period to repay the loan or cost of the sewer.

“This sewer is to benefit them, not the other sewer users,” she said.

Also, the property owners will be charged a monthly sewer user fee, based on water consumption. For Neshannock Township, the minimum fee is $55 per month for the first 4,160 gallons used.

The township owns it own sewer lines and the monthly fees are higher than the city’s because Neshannock has 11 lift stations and 58 miles of sewer lines to maintain.

dwachter@ncnewsonline.com 

Reporter

Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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