The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Rave

August 11, 2012

Confront plant's pollution problems

Northumberland Borough and Point Township officials have been engaged in a very public, but still rather abstract, squabble over control of the wastewater treatment plant long owned by the borough but serving both municipalities.

The latest link in this chain of progression came last week when a judge unmerged a regional authority formed at the 11th hour by the outgoing members of Northumberland Borough Council.

The sewer authority plans to meet and may appeal the judge's ruling that essentially found that the authority does not exist. There is an Alice in Wonderland quality to this and the adversarial relationship that has developed between Point and Northumberland will not help.

Point Township Supervisor Montie Peters said the decision undermines plans to build a $10 million waste water plant. Peters said the interim strategy for dealing with pollution problems at the wastewater treatment plant has involved purchasing nitrogen credits to offset the consequences of polluting the river.

He surmised that the borough may seek to solve its pollution problems by linking into the Sunbury system, running sewer lines under the Susquehanna River in the process.

That is where the broader public interest lies.

The water quality in the Susquehanna River has become an issue of increasing concern due to revelations about health problems with the river's smallmouth bass population. No one has determined what is at the heart of the fish problems, though experts have been moving toward a consensus that warmer water temperatures and reduced oxygen levels are at play. Adding pollution to those environmental stresses cannot help.

Municipal officials in Point Township and Northumberland borough have an obligation to come up with a workable plan to reduce the amount of pollution being released into the river.

If the solution involves a regional authority, fine.

If the solution involves having Northumberland borough maintain ownership of the wastewater treatment plant with Point Township as a customer, that would be fine, too. The organizational structure is irrelevant.

Those who have been elected or appointed to leadership positions in these two sister communities ought to be able to work together to serve their constituents and protect the environment. If they are incapable of cooperation, then outside mediation may be in order. Meeting in court is no way to run government.

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