New Wilmington borough hopes to soon settle a longstanding sewer rate dispute with Wilmington Township.

Gerry Brown, a New Wilmington borough councilman, who chairs council’s sanitation committee, said at a recent meeting the state finally has approved the borough’s 537 plan to upgrade the sewer treatment plant on Maple Street Extension.

The 537 plan is an official plan required by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection which explains how a municipality plans to solve existing sewage disposal problems and provide for future sewage needs.

Brown said he hopes the approval means the borough can finally collect about $70,000 in back sewage treatment fees he says the township owes to the borough.

He explained Wilmington Township has refused to pay a sewage rate increase imposed several years ago and instead has continued paying the old rate, a flat $1,000 per month, to the borough.

The actual billing amount varies because of usage, but the current monthly bill to the township is $3,450.

This week, council directed its solicitor Frank Verterano to send a letter asking for the back fees to be paid within 30 days. They will wait until the borough’s May meeting for a response in order to give the township supervisors and the township sewer authority a chance to meet and discuss the matter.

Brown explained the borough is under orders from the DEP to upgrade the sewer plant, which was built in the 1970s. He said the rates were raised in May, 2010, because they were not covering the cost of sewage treatment. Since then, the borough and customers in Wilmington Township, Mercer County, have been paying the higher rates but Wilmington Township, Lawrence County, has continued to pay $1,000 per month, he said.

He said that Wilmington Township, Lawrence County, has about 100 customers in the borough’s watershed who have been on the borough’s sewage plant for approximately six years. He said they are located in the area of the cheese plant on Route 18 and the area near Route 158 south of the borough.

Brown noted that in the two years he has chaired the sewage committee, there has been some dialogue but no resolution on the dispute and estimates the township owes between $68,000 and $71,000 in back payments. He told council he hopes the DEP approval may make a difference because the township had argued against paying the rate increase, pointing out the borough did not have a 537 plan approval.

Construction on the new sewage plant is expected to begin in May, 2013.

Efforts to reach two members of the sewer authority were unsuccessful. A third authority member referred calls to solicitor Richard Harper, but an effort to reach him also was unsuccessful.

(Email: nclocal@ncnewsonline.com)

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