The Upper Montgomery Joint Authority last week voted to borrow $25 million to improve its plant, located at 1100 Mensch Dam Road in Pennsburg. Now the authority is seeking approval from the three boroughs it serves – Red Hill, Pennsburg and East Greenville – to extend the its articles of incorporation to 2064, which would allow it to take advantage of bond rates that are at a 40-year low.
The upgrades to the plan, required by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), are not optional, according to Glenn Quinn, executive superintendent of the facility. "This is something we have to do," he said.
The day before the heavy rains at the end of May, the UMJA processed 900,000 gallons of wastewater, according to Quinn. He said that immediately following the storm, which dumped 6 inches of rain of the region, the flow to the plant peaked at 11.5-million gallons per day.
According to Quinn, the authority identified diluted raw sewage overflows at 13 manholes throughout its service area.
The upgrades to the plant would allow for better managament of that flow, eliminate an antiquated holding tank, make legally required upgrades to the facility and facilitate future improvements.
The financial influx would also allow authority officials to modernize the plant, which was built in the 1960s, in preparation for stricter nutrient removal standards, according to Quinn.
Quinn said DEP regulations require the plant to replace a tank that currently collects wastewater during high flow periods and treats it with chlorine before it is expelled into the reservoir. "It's an unacceptable situation to have," Quinn said of the tank. "That should have been stopped a long time ago."
He said that improvements to wastewater flow would cost approximately $17 million, and the authority's six-person board of directors, made of two appointees from each municipality, voted to borrow an additional $8 million.
"We're going to plan for the future," Quinn said. "We want to gain the flexibility to treat sewer water equally under wet and dry conditions."
The plant's customers, which total approximately 3,300, would have to absorb that cost, according to Quinn. He said they can expect rate increases around 20 percent 2016 and 2017 to cover the principal, then single-digit hikes in the outgoing years to cover the debt service.
On June 3, Pennsburg's borough council voted to approve the measure with a condition that the other two communities approve.
East Greenville will consider a similar measure at its June 24 public meeting, according to Jim Fry, the borough's code enforcement and zoning officer. Fry said borough officials recently received a presentation on the authority's proposals.
Officials in Red Hill will discuss the issue at their June 11 public meeting, according to council Vice President Doris Decker. She said the item will be on that night's meeting agenda.