At the end of July, Cranberry’s Board of Supervisors reluctantly concluded that the rates for sewer service customers would need to go from $5.67 to $7.16 per 1,000 gallons, starting in September. It wasn’t an easy decision.
Nobody likes to pay more for a service they already have, and nobody in public life likes to raise those rates, either.
We have known for the past 15 years that we would eventually need to expand the plant’s sewage treatment capacity to serve our growing population. In fact, that was the very same issue which triggered the Township’s merger with the formerly independent Municipal Sewer and Water Authority back in 1999. Our Board had been concerned with fallout from the last Plant Expansion in 1998 and an apparent disconnect between the Authority’s planning and that of the Township. So, for the same reasons that private companies merge, we consolidated the two agencies. And one of our primary goals was to postpone the day of reckoning for the next plant expansion.
To accomplish that, we tightened up the collection system. We put a pretreatment program in place for commercial customers. We tweaked the plant’s treatment process. And, for the most part, we were successful.
As expected, our population continued growing. And today, we are very close to the point where the plant has to be expanded in order to satisfy our primary legal obligation: to operate a wastewater treatment plant which is in full compliance with state and federal laws.
We have now worked out a timeline to achieve that with our primary regulator, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. And late last year, our Board adopted a resolution to start a planning, design, and permitting process which would lead to an expansion of the Brush Creek plant’s treatment capacity. Although that process is still underway, it is already clear that upgrades will be required to serve a larger population and satisfy today’s DEP/EPA requirements. We figure it will cost no less than $18-$20 million to meet those requirements.
But there’s a twist: we have not yet received the final operating requirements. Our current estimate is based on current operating requirements. So if those treatment and performance requirements change, it would affect the design of the plant as well as its construction costs.
What’s behind that uncertainty is a debate about how water discharged from the Cranberry plant, as well as effluent from a whole bunch of others in the Commonwealth, would affect the Gulf of Mexico – which, in turn, is an expansion of regulations initially associated with protecting the Chesapeake Bay.
In the meantime, we are working with DEP officials and our own team of experts to resolve the design issues so that we can have an upgraded plant built and running by the time we need it, and avoid the dire consequences of failing to meet that deadline. Identifying those requirements within a quickly narrowing time span has been extremely stressful, and that’s where we are right now.
There’s a lot more information about this project at www.cranberrytownship.org/PlantProject
. If you’d like to get up close and personal with the issue, you are welcome to join me for a Coffee and Conversation get-together at the plant on Powell Road, Thursday, September 12 at 10:00 AM. My treat.
In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts. Write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org