Ebensburg finds cooking grease in sewer system

Work has begun on a $9 million sewer improvement project in Ebensburg, Borough Manger Dan Penatzer said this week.

The announcement came on the same day that Penatzer revealed an unusually high amount of cooking grease had been found in the local sanitary sewer system.

Penatzer said work on the large-scale project began last week in the southern-most section of town, near Route 22.

“It’s a gravity sewer system so you kind of have to start at the bottom and work your way up,” he said, explaining construction will move gradually through the borough.

The project will be funded by a $9 million loan awarded by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority in October.

That 25-year loan comes with a 1 percent interest rate and will allow the replacement of 60,500 feet of sanitary sewer main pipe.

The project, which will affect about 80 percent of the borough, is intended to remove storm and groundwater from sanitary sewer lines, meeting requirements set by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“This is a very large project that will prove to be of great inconvenience to everyone in town, but it is absolutely necessary that this work be completed.” Penatzer said.

In January, Borough Council members awarded a $8,420,967 contract for sewer work to Sippel Development, the lowest of seven bidders.

Construction is predicted to take about a year, Penatzer said. Work is to continue through the winter months.

“It is difficult to predict when the contractor will be working in any given area of town or on a particular street,” Penatzer said.

In addition to work on sewer mains, property owners will have to have private lines replaced if they fail a borough-mandated pressure test.

Property owners are responsible for the laterals from the edges of property lines to building foundations, Penatzer said.

As mainline work progresses, property owners will be sent notices, informing them that they can begin private work and establishing a completion deadline.

The deadline, Penatzer said, will come at the end of a 90-day period.

Property owners will have to hire their own contractors for private work.

“More than one quote is always a good idea, but they should check references for any company,” Penatzer said.

Penatzer also cautioned that property owners should not begin work until they are notified.

In other areas of the sewer system, modern infrastructure already exists, and property owners have had to comply with private work deadlines, Penatzer said.

“We’re strict about the deadlines, and people are complying,” he said. “That’s gone very smoothly.”

Still, Penatzer said there are a few people who have not complied. Those property owners are now receiving surcharged bills, and, if work is not completed by June 30, they could see a fine of $50 per day, he said.

On Thursday, Penatzer also discussed the large amount of grease flowing into the sanitary sewer system.

“We’ve noticed it at the plant over the last two months,” he said.

Penatzer said grease entering the sanitary sewer can cause blockages and inhibit operations at the treatment plant.

Grease that reaches the plant must be removed by hand, he said, explaining the removal takes up time that could be spent fulfilling other duties.

As of Thursday, borough officials were not aware of where the grease was coming from, but Penatzer, who guessed a restaurant or similar food producer is at fault, said the means exist to determine its origin.

“This is generally a kitchen of some kind,” he said. “We can find out.”

Discharging grease into the system — in any amount — can result in a fine of $600 per day.

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