Westmoreland County gets grant to extend sewer line for business park

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With the help of a $2.2 million state grant, Westmoreland County will construct a sewer line and begin plans for a new 150-acre industrial-business park next to the Westinghouse Waltz Mill plant in Sewickley Township.

The state grant will be used to extend about 2 1/2 miles of public sewer lines from a Hempfield Township Municipal Authority treatment plant to the site to serve the Westinghouse plant and prospective businesses.

Westinghouse’s private sewer system is near capacity, so it needs the new line.

In addition, the new sewer line in the future may serve Menasha Paper Corp., which has 200 employees, officials said.

“The extension of public sewage and the elimination of private treatment facilities will provide an environmental benefit,” county Commissioner Ted Kopas said. “This project is economic development and pollution prevention wrapped together.”

The project will eliminate two sewage treatment plants, remove discharges to Sewickley Creek and redirect flows to the publicly operated system.

The 750 residents in nearby Yukon could benefit as well if they decide to tap into the new sewer line. County officials said the borough has a high percentage of on-lot septic tanks.

The total cost of the sewer project is $3.2 million, and the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. will contribute about $1 million to its completion. The project includes building two pumping stations and once completed, Sewickley Township will maintain the line, said Jason Rigone, executive director of the county industrial development corporation.

The county now will begin negotiations with Westinghouse to purchase the 150 acres for the business park, Mr. Rigone said. The park, in both Sewickley and Hempfield townships, will be broken up into 10- to 20-acre parcels, according to officials.

County officials believe the availability of a railroad line will be a key feature of the new Waltz Mill business park.

“We did a survey in the Pittsburgh area and we don’t have rail-access property available for manufacturers,” Mr. Rigone said.

“Every year we pass up on new companies looking for sites with rail access. Now we won’t have to lose those projects to other states. And most of these parcels will be ‘pad-ready,’ which many companies want," he said.

“We work closely with the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, which backed this project, and the Governor’s Action Team, on prospective companies,” he said.

Rail transportation is typically cheaper than trucking, he said.

The county development corporation owns the rail spur, and the privately owned Southwest Pennsylvania Railroad operates on it with a direct connection to three major rail companies -- Norfolk Southern, CSX and Wheeling & Lake Erie.

The ability to contract with any of the three major rail carriers will allow customers to negotiate costs, officials said.

County Commissioner Charles Anderson, in a news release, called the sewer project a "unique, public/private partnership” with Westinghouse that will help to offset the loss of about 500 jobs that occurred when the State Correctional Institution-Greensburg closed earlier this year. County commissioners are on the board of the development corporation.

The Westinghouse plant has about 800 employees who provide service and maintenance for nuclear power plants in the United States and internationally.

According to the county, power plant workers from around the world are brought to the site for training. Officials said the engineering and technical jobs at Westinghouse are secure because 40 years of service is required for every new reactor constructed.

Westinghouse recently won a contract to build a new generation of nuclear reactors in China.

The site also has good access to major highways. The Waltz Mill exit to Interstate 70 is nearby, and the site is only two miles west of the Pennsylvania Turnpike exit at New Stanton and access to U.S. Route 119 and PA toll road 66.

Officials hope once the Waltz Mill Park is filled, it will be home to businesses with as many as 1,500 employees.

The county’s 16 industrial parks have been key to its continued economic growth. The most recent local unemployment figures, for October, show Westmoreland County has a 6.8 percent unemployment rate, below the national average of 7 percent.

Some of the industrial parks are near capacity, and the county is currently expanding the industrial park adjacent to the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport near Latrobe. It is also partnering with the Regional Industrial Development Corp. to bring businesses to the former Sony plant near New Stanton.

County officials praised Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, and Rep. Ted Harhai, D-Westmoreland, for their help in obtaining the state grant.

Debra Duncan, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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