- Published on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 13:27
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Too little interest was generated when members of county government offered to make sewage collection services available to Westmoreland residents in Drum Bay, Tidwells and Glebe Harbor neighborhoods. On Sept. 21, the county advised prospective service area customers that the deadline for purchasing the system’s $3,000 connections would be extended to Nov. 16, resulting in a 60-day extension of the initially stated target date. Failure to purchase a connection by the that date would result in a connection cost of $4,800.
To make the project viable, the federal agency known as Rural Development lowered the participation threshold from a previous 450 signers to 250. The agency would provide Westmoreland County with a 40-year loan whose bottom line would not exceed $5,631,600.00 with interest fixed at two percent.
Westmoreland officials convened a second informational session with prospective service area customers in order to assess concerns and clarify existing information. During the Sept. 15 meeting citizens expressed displeasure with a provision compelling sewer customers to destroy previously existing septic systems.
County officials attempted to put to rest perceptions that initial customer costs would approach $10,000 as a result of the septic demolition requirement and electrical service upgrade allowing older homes to support grinder pumps the new system would install in the yard of each program participant. In order to keep the system working during electrical power outages, individual customers would need to purchase a generator of capacity sufficient to power the grinder pump.
Added to those considerations was the customer’s $42 monthly service fee. County government has responded with a proposed zoning ordinance amendment that will be the subject of public hearings in November. The Planning Commission agreed to conduct its hearing on Monday, Nov. 5. The session will begin at 1:30 p.m. and the Supervisors will follow with a public hearing and action during a meeting that begins at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 14. Both meetings will be held in A.T. Johnson auditorium.
According to the discussion that occurred during the Commission’s Oct. 22 work session, the amendment would delete the ordinance language that requires a sewer customer to abandon the homeowner’s previously utilized onsite sewage disposal system. If the Supervisors take final action to accept the amended language, the new measures will become effective as quickly as the board’s Nov. 14 action date, a mere two days prior to the deadline for buying the Drum Bay, Tidwells and Glebe Harbor sewer connections.
As explained during this Monday’s Planning Commission work session, the proposed sewage collection system’s area of coverage extends to some of the jurisdiction’s most isolated areas, reaching to remote locations where electric power outages historically have lasted for two weeks and longer. Compounding the potential difficulty, is those locations’ extended distances from existing commercial establishments that sell the fuel needed to power household generators.
“The proposed amendment would allow the option of retaining a functioning onsite septic system after connecting with the public sewer,” Westmoreland Planning Director Robert Fink explained on Monday. He added that part of the value of the existing system might additionally be preserved “by converting the septic tank to a non-potable water cistern.”
The measure would still require “proper abandonment of the onsite system if it is disconnected and [would provide clearer direction on abandonment of the onsite system.” According to Fink, Northumberland and Lancaster counties do not require sewer customers to demolish previously working individual septic systems. If approved, the amendment would enable sewer customers to install a Y-valve where the public infrastructure is connected at the home.
The sewer customer’s Y-valve would be manipulated manually from the crawl space or basement, directing refuse to the previously utilized septic accommodations during periods when extended power outages occur.
Customers wishing to retain the option of utilizing existing septic accommodations during power outage emergencies would still have to maintain the integrity of existing drainfields. If the previously existing online system is disconnected at some later date, proper abandonment procedures must be adhered to, Fink explained.