Developers to pay higher sewage tap-in fees in Cranberry

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Just months after Cranberry boosted sewage rates for customers, the township has approved a significant hike in fees to tap into the system. At the same time, another rate increase is being contemplated.

The effort to increase revenue anticipates a major expansion of the municipal sewage treatment facility on Powell Road, said township manager Jerry Andree.

“We could be facing a $65 million expenditure,’’ Mr. Andree said.

The township is looking at seven options for the pending upgrade to the treatment facility, ranging in price from a low of $44 million to a high of $65 million depending on how the project is phased.

The most recent effort to increase the revenue stream to the Brush Creek plant, approved in January, increases the tap-in fees by $294 to $ 2,820.00 per single dwelling unit. Developers of new businesses will pay a tap fee based on a formula that calculates the levy based on the business’s comparative equivalency to a single-family home. Mr. Andree said the amount of the tap fee is the maximum allowed, based on a state-regulated formula.

Mr. Andree said the tap fee hike passes will be paid by developers. “We think it’s fair to pass on as much of the cost of the [needed] expansion to future development,” he explained.

He expects supervisors to make a decision in March on what design to proceed with for the plant expansion. The biggest issue is whether to do the work in a single phase. While a single phase would cost the most up front and in the short term, it presents challenges in that “we don’t know what the next set of [state and federal environmental] regulations will be in five years." A phased construction schedule is likely to cost more spread out over the long term, he acknowledged. "If we do it in phases, we’ll have more information on what we’re dealing with,” Mr. Andree said.

“There’s a strong argument to do it in two phases with $44 million being the cost for phase one. But, later on, you’d pay for phase two when we’d know what the requirements would be, but the cost will also be higher,” he explained.

Either way, the increase in tap fees was needed, he said. There have been no complaints from the development community, he said.

The township wants construction to begin in 2015 and on line with the expanded plant by late 2016. The current five-year state permit expires in 2017.

Meanwhile, in August, the township announced that customer rates were increasing by $1.49 to $7.16 per 1,000 gallons of water used during a monthly billing period, increasing the average monthly cost for most households from about $35 to $43.

Mr. Andree said another customer rate increase is on the horizon. The amount of the next increase won’t be known until a design is picked for the pending expansion project.

The plant, which treats sewage from about 10,000 residential and business customers, is permitted to treat 3.5 million gallons of sewage per day. While that’s enough capacity for today, the average daily flow of sewage to the plant is expected to exceed capacity within two years, Mr. Andree said.

Not only is Cranberry facing increased treatment demand because of a steadily rising population — anticipated to reach 50,000 by 2030 — the township also is anticipating changing environmental regulations, the first of which involves a state Department of Environmental Protection requirement that the treatment plant be capable of treating inflow from even the worst of storms.

The state allows the township to essentially bypass a portion of the sewage treatment process during heavy storms because of several factors: the diluted nature of the inflow, that the inflow still is undergoing about half the usual treatment process and the fact that tests of discharge from the plant into the Brush Creek plant show that permit regulations are being met, despite the abbreviated treatment process. Mr. Andree said DEP will no longer allow this “blended” discharge.

Also anticipated are changes in federal environmental standards. Known as Chesapeake Bay standards, the limits for phosphorous and nitrogen being discharged into streams and rivers are being reduced. Those new standards are not yet in effect, but Mr. Andree said planners are facing a dilemma about whether to expand in a way that anticipates them.

The existing plant was built in 2001.

The township will hold an open house to outline plant design alternatives between 1 and 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Rochester Road municipal center. Eight information kiosks will be available for residents and business owners to review.

Karen Kane: or at 724-772-9180.

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