The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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September 1, 2013

MAP | Sewer projects are making a stink: Homeowners are angered and confused over the work

— Homeowners are raising a stink over the cost of numerous sewer projects across the region, with more than 100 signing a petition urging Johnstown City Council to reconsider mandated work.

Charlene Stanton of Sell Street started the petition after getting an estimate of $15,000 to install the required new sewer line to eliminate stormwater infiltration.

“Where do the people get this money?” Stanton asked. “They are just going to walk away from their property. It will create more blight.”

The work is required as the city’s latest phase of sewer upgrades reached her Roxbury neighborhood as part of state-ordered work to address overloads and blowouts in the sprawling 20-municipality Johnstown Regional Sewage system feeding the Dornick Point treatment plant.

Stormwater entering the sanitary sewer system through old underground terracotta lines, downspouts, combined sanitary/storm sewers and other sources regularly creates sewage flows that exceed the Dornick Point plant’s capacity, putting it in violation. There are also 50 locations where excess sewage is dumped into area waterways during heavy runoff.

A state order has established a timeline for the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority to get the stormwater out of the system and eliminate overflows or face crippling fines.

A looming Jan. 1 reporting date has authority leaders working to address remaining issues across the system, authority acting director Francis D’Ettorre said.

In addition to the city, replacement projects have been completed in Dale and East Conemaugh boroughs and are ongoing in Ferndale and Brownstown. Highland Sewer and Water Authority has been working throughout its collection system, and Pegasus Sewer Authority and several others have made progress.

Westmont, Southmont and Lorain boroughs and Upper Yoder and Lower Yoder townships are among those still working on a response.

Extreme measures?

But is the city going too far, Stanton asks, with support from retired professional engineer Leonard J. Facciani of Ferndale. Both point out that it is the redevelopment authority, not the city, which is under orders to fix the problem. They also note that the state order does not require complete replacement of home sewer connections, with pressure testing to identify and eliminate openings for stormwater.

Start with the obvious, Facciani said.

“Work on getting the (storm) sewers and downspouts out of the system, and then see where you are at,” Facciani said. “I feel certain that’s 90 percent of the problem.”

Facciani believes the plant has the  capacity to treat any extra inflow and infiltration from residential service connections. He plans to present his arguments Sept. 9 to Ferndale Borough Council.

Stanton wonders why the city is requiring pressure testing, since the costly remedy is not suggested in the redevelopment authority’s order from the Department of Environmental Protection. The order does suggest smoke and dye testing to locate leaks.

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