The planning process to consolidate Clearfield Municipal Authority, Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township’s sewer and water systems is almost complete.
At yesterday’s authority board meeting Engineer Jim Balliet of Gwin, Dobson & Foreman of Altoona reported that the borough and township’s engineer, Stiffler, McGraw and Associates of Hollidaysburg, has completed all of its planning materials for the two municipalities and has submitted them to the authority.
The authority is then going to merge the materials with their own planning work and submit it to the state Department of Environmental Protection as an Act 537 Special Study to have the three systems combined into one, which would be owned, operated and maintained by CMA.
An Act 537 Plan is the sewage facilities plan for a municipality.
Once the Act 537 Special Study is approved by DEP, transfer of assets agreements would be drawn up for the borough and the township to turn over its assets to the CMA.
CMA is also assuming the debt the two municipalities accumulated in repairing, replacing and maintaining its sanitary sewer systems.
The borough has several low interest loans outstanding from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority that it used to completely replace its sanitary sewer system. Balliet said those loans are easily transferable over to the CMA and they shouldn’t be an issue.
The township however has private bank loans outstanding for its sanitary sewer work, and those loans cannot be transferred and instead would have to be refinanced. Therefore, the township’s process is more complicated, Balliet said.
Once the CMA takes over the system, all CMA customers would pay the same sewer rates. Currently, both the borough and the township charge its residents who are connected to the public sanitary sewer system the same surcharge, $8 per 1,000 gallons of water usage, but there were times when the borough and the township had different surcharge rates.
Balliet said he is hoping the draft Act 537 Plan Special Study will be ready for approval by the CMA board at its meeting next month. If everything goes well, the consolidation could be completed by the end of the year.
Balliet also reported that the CMA had to open the Hyde Sanitary Sewer Overflow briefly on June 18, which will incur a fine from DEP. Clearfield’s sanitary sewer system continues to have issues with storm water entering the system, which forces the CMA to open the Hyde SSO and discharge raw sewage into the West Branch of the Susquehanna River during periods of heavy rain to keep the sewage from backing up into homes and businesses.
DEP issues fines every time the CMA does this. The two other incidents occurred in January, for which the CMA was fined $2,800, and in April where it was fined $3,250. The CMA doesn’t yet know how much it will be fined for the June incident.
However, the DEP has the option of fining the CMA up to $10,000 per day for each incident.
“They could hit us with a lot more if they wanted to,” CMA Chairman Russell Triponey said.
And he added that DEP probably isn’t fining at a higher rate because they are making so much headway on consolidating the three sanitary sewer systems.
Currently the township and the CMA share the cost of the fines, with the township paying 80 percent and the CMA 20 percent.
When asked by The Progress who would pay the fines after the consolidation, Balliet said once the consolidation is approved, they are hopeful DEP would give them an additional grace period to get the storm water issue resolved and they won’t have to pay any more fines.