By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
NORTHUMBERLAND — Northumberland borough likely avoided a $100-a-day fine from the state Department of Environmental Protection by approving a plan Tuesday to build an $11.9 million sewage treatment plant on the site of the old Water Street plant.
The plan would require customers in Northumberland, Point Township and Upper Augusta Township to pay $550 a year to the sewer committee when the new plant goes on line in 2015. That annual fee likely would grow to $600, not accounting for inflation, by the end of the 20-year life of the new plant.
DEP previously set a deadline of Feb. 28 for the Northumberland Sewer Committee — a group that grew out of the ashes of the now defunct Northumberland Sewer Authority — to comply with a consent order requiring a viable plan to deal with the borough’s out-of-date plant, which was spewing pollutants into the Susquehanna River.
The project plan will be handed to DEP on or before Thursday by Brian L. Book, senior associate with Hazen and Sawyer, a State College-based firm of environmental engineers and scientists. Book authored the plan.
If it is accepted, the borough will have avoided the fine.
Book explained the plan to a group of more than 20 stakeholders and officials from Point and Upper Augusta townships, who attended a Northumberland Sewer Committee meeting that took place two hours before the regular Borough Council meeting on Tuesday.
The next step in the project plan is to secure funding, Book said. Much of the $11.9 million could come from a PennVEST low-interest loan. “But there are no guarantees,” he said. “We’ll just make our presentation and see what happens. There are also other grants that could help defray costs down the line.”
For the most part, the crowd remained silent and attentive, listening to Book detail the intricacies of the project. But Montie Peters, a Point Township supervisor, had plenty of questions.
Peters said he had scheduled a meeting with DEP to “try and clean up the unknowns. This project is costing $2 million more now than originally planned. And we, as township customers, have to pay a fair share of the bill. It’s no secret that there is a giant rift between the township and the borough, and we need to figure a way out of this. Or we’ll just wind up in court.”
Book listened to the questions and answered what he could.
“If there is a question about the inter-municipality agreements between Point Township and the borough, that is something beyond what my job is,” he said. “I’ve tried to lay out the best possible plan for the community, nothing more than that.”
Later in the meeting, Harry Wynn, who has been a Northumberland resident since 1977, was appointed to the council to fill an opening until the end of the year. Wynn previously was on the council in 1995 and 1996.
“I’ve volunteering because you need someone to fill the hole and help you solve issues,” he said.
The council also approved a resolution in support of naming the Shikellamy Fieldhouse for legendary wrestling coach Phil Lockcuff, who died recently.