AWA gets sewer loan

Pennvest on Wednesday awarded a $6.5 million low-interest loan to the Altoona Water Authority for sewer line improvements in Pleasant Valley and Eldorado to eliminate wet-weather overflows, as ordered by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The loan could pay for laying almost two miles of mostly supplementary lines between 17th Street and Llyswen and about three-quarters of a mile of replacement and supplementary lines in Eldorado, according to authority General Manager Mark Perry.

The 1-percent, 20-year loan could save the authority $1.6 million, compared to paying for the work through municipal bonds at the current rate, according to a Pennvest subsidy calculator.

Perry said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the award, although the authority’s consulting engineer had been optimistic.

Pennvest provided massive help in financing the authority’s nearly finished upgrades of its two sewer treatment plants, to comply with stricter effluent regulations to help clean up Chesapeake Bay.

Pennvest makes its awards after ranking all project proposals based on water-quality impacts and other factors, said Pennvest Executive Director Paul Marchetti Wednesday.

The sewer line projects will help prevent discharges from manholes, including some that reach Brush Run in Pleasant Valley, according to Pennvest.

“We think they’re doing the right thing,” Marchetti said. “[It’s] the kind of thing we’re here to take care of.”

It may have helped that the authority is under a consent orders from DEP to fix the overflow problem, he said.

The authority is still acquiring property for the Pleasant Valley project, which includes a pump station near HealthSouth.

The authority hopes to go to bid on that job before the end of the year, begin construction next spring and finish no later than spring of 2015, Perry said.

HRI Inc. is about 65 percent finished the Eldorado project, centered on 58th Street and Valley Road, according to Perry.

Construction costs for Pleasant Valley are about $4 million, and for the Eldorado project, $1.33 million.

Engineering costs for both could be as high as $762,000.

There are additional legal and right-of-way acquisition costs for the projects.

The work will include a renovation of the authority’s combined sewer overflow facilities.

The Pennvest loans can reimburse the authority for construction, engineering and some legal costs.

Pennvest also awarded a $645,000 loan to Huston Township in Clearfield County to replace three miles of water mains and to make other improvements.

Pennvest awarded $53 million altogether Wednesday – $44 million in low-interest loans, the rest in grants.