The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 24, 2012

Borough braces for road work

Brownstown up next for sewer project

Randy Griffith

— Brownstown Recreation Park’s transformation into a construction staging yard and excavation equipment parked along Gilbert Street foretell of traffic nightmares to extend well beyond Halloween.

A long-awaited $4.6 million sanitary sewer replacement project is to begin Monday.

Gilbert Street, the main route through the borough, will be closed beginning at 6:30 a.m. Monday.

By the end of next summer, crews led by general contractor Sippel Development of Zelienople will have installed more than 41⁄2 miles of sewer mains, 3 miles of lateral lines to customers’ homes and 160 manholes, borough leaders announced Wednesday.

Brownstown is facing the same sewer issue that is being addressed by municipalities throughout the Johnstown Regional Sewage system.

Storm water runoff is finding its way into sanitary sewers, overloading the collection system and Dornick Point treatment plant. Untreated waste often overflows into area waterways.

The borough is under the gun to get its overflows reduced or face financial penalties in connection with the state-ordered corrective action, council President Nancy Geyer said.

“The problem was: Do it now, or do it later,” Geyer said. “The grants are at a premium now.”

A lion’s share of the funding comes from a $2.6 million grant and nearly $2 million approved in January by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or PennVest.

“You run the risk of: Are the (grants) going to be available if we wait?” Geyer said.

Brownstown may be one of the larger system’s worst offenders, Geyer said. Aging underground pipe has cracked and allowed storm water to enter the sewage flow.

Monitors placed by system-operator Johns­town Redevelopment Authority show the flow rates during storms, Geyer said.

“Ours was astronomical,” she said. “On Westmont Hill, we blew the monitor right off.”

Geyer said borough leaders considered every option before deciding on the current plan.

The project will construct a completely new collection system, but leave existing pipe in the ground to supplement Brownstown’s storm sewers.

In addition, crews will replace individual property connection laterals to within four feet of each structure. The additional work will save homeowners part of their required expense for tapping into the new sewer mains, she said.

While the long-term impact will be a cleaner environment, the short-term effects will include traffic delays and detours throughout the winter and spring.

“The borough understands that this will be a significant inconvenience and result in rerouting of school buses; mass transit and everyday traffic, and asks for patience and understanding while this required project progresses,” a press release said.

“The borough plans to issue closing notices as the contractor’s schedule becomes available.”

Geyer said she got a preview of what Browns­town can expect when East Conemaugh Borough’s sewer system was upgraded. She is East Conemaugh’s secretary.

“It is going to look like a war zone,” Geyer predicted.

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