Portage residents will need to test sewage systems

PORTAGE – Borough Council members predicted Monday evening that Ward 3 residents will be outraged when they realize they’ll have to begin air testing their sewage systems, which likely will lead to costly pipe replacements.

After months of heated discussions and more than one packed borough meeting held in the Portage fire hall, council approved an ordinance in October requiring residents to test their sewers for infiltration only when selling or transferring their homes.

Or at least that’s what residents thought.

But the ordinance always carried a caveat that the borough would test residents’ systems whenever the borough takes on new construction.

And that’s exactly what’s going to happen next summer when Portage begins building its half of a $6 million joint sewer project with Portage Township.

Public Works Director Donald Squillario said he’d made clear several times during discussion of the ordinance that Ward 3 residents always were going to have to test their lines, saying the borough could not afford to invest $3 million into a sewage system but leave old pipes that allow infiltration.

The issue has been that Ward 3 residents were upset they had to test their lines when residents from wards 1 and 2 did not, he said, which led to council debating when, if at all, to

require other residents test their pipes.

Not everyone remembered the discussion going that way, including Ward 3 resident and Councilwoman Rebecca Chobany.

“I was under the impression it was the laterals … that you’re not coming into my house,” she said.

Squillario said residents may have gotten caught up in the debate and not realized it, but when the project begins in summer 2015, “If the pipes are bad … they’re going to have to tear it up.”

“That’s just not right,” she responded.

Squillario estimated that 90 percent of Ward 3 homes would not pass inspection. He also said the borough is responsible for replacing pipes from the curb to the main line, but from the home to the curb is the residents’ responsibility.

“This is going to turn ugly again,” Borough Manager Robert Koban said.

Council also voted to advertise for applications for a public works director to replace Squillario, who is retiring at the end of the month, and approved advertising for letters of interest to fill a council vacancy created by the resignation of Martin Slanoc, which council also accepted Monday.

Slanoc resigned from his Ward 3, four-year term because he moved out of the borough.

Although his term was slated to run through 2017, whoever is chosen to fill his seat will have to run for the seat again in the next municipal election.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.