Logan considers sewer extension

Neighborhood near Cracker Barrel still served by septic systems

It’s probably unsurprising that members of the Logan Township Planning Commission were surprised this week to learn that a neighborhood with hardly a whiff of the countryside is dependent on septic systems for sewage disposal.

It’s especially unsurprising when one considers that a resident of that neighborhood — a retired plumber to boot — was unaware until last year that the house he’d lived in for nine years wasn’t on a community sewer line.

The commission members learned that the 22 homes between Goods Lane and I-99 — next to the Cracker Barrel restaurant and across from the Logan Valley Mall parking garage — are served by septic systems when asked to approve an application to the state Department of Community and Economic Development for a $375,000 grant for a sewer extension to serve that area.

Irwin Drive resident Robert Beam learned that his house was on septic when his shower backed up, because his septic tank had filled up with solids.

The septic systems in that neighborhood are “showing signs of failure,” according to a summary of the proposed project provided by township Planning Director Cassandra Schmick.

Installation of 3,000 linear feet of 8-inch line would “eliminate existing and potential future septic system malfunctions, which will remediate as well as prevent contamination of groundwater and stormwater run-off,” the summary states.

Most of Logan is sewered, and the township in recent times has been working to eliminate the remaining small pockets, provided the cost-benefit ratio is “reasonable,” Schmick told the commissioners.

Recent extensions have been completed along Frankstown Road, in Beverly Hills, in the City View area, along Knob Lane, at Kittanning Point, in Rose Hill and in Homers Gap, Grandview and Red Hill, according to the project summary.

The commission vouched for the project being in compliance with the township’s comprehensive plan.

The project is part of the township’s Act 537 sewer plan.

If the project — which would cost a total of $442,000 — takes place, residents would be obligated by township ordinance to hook on to the new line if their properties are within 150 feet of it, Schmick said.

Project designers generally ensure that the lines run close enough to trigger that requirement, she said.

Residents who hook on will need to pay a tap fee, currently $1,540, she said.

Beam is a renter who has been trying to buy from his landlord.

He had been aware that he wasn’t getting a sewer bill after moving to the house, but assumed that the township — in contrast to the Altoona Water Authority — didn’t charge for sewer service.

There was no sign of a septic system in his yard.

It was a shock when water began coming up through the toilet while a family member was showering, he said.

It took lots of digging, exploration and consultation with a septic service firm to locate the cap of the tank, which was buried deep.

He located it himself on a hot summer day, he said.

Once the sludge was pumped out, his system began working well again, he said.

He’d prefer not to have to pay the tap fee, if he should succeed in buying the house, he said.

But he accepts the need to pay if necessary, he said.

Residents whose septics are failing would cheer for the project, Schmick said.

The township may have evidence of septic failures, but he’s never smelled anything when riding his bike through the neighborhood, Beam said.

He’s also never heard neighbors complain about their septic systems, he said.

The Logan supervisors also approved the application at their meeting Thursday.

Beam has reburied the cap of his septic tank, but he’s posted a diagram in his basement precisely identifying the location — for himself or a future occupant.

Ideally, tanks should be pumped about every three years, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.