The Altoona Water Authority is continuing to offset a little of the $65 million cost of renovating its two sewer plants by selling "credits" earned by exceeding its effluent-cleanup requirements.
Last fiscal year, it netted $107,500 by selling credits for 57,000 pounds of nitrogen and 4,800 pounds of phosphorus to four area authorities that weren't meeting effluent requirements, which the state established in recent years to protect the Chesapeake Bay.
Recently, the authority earned an additional $75,000 by selling credits to Clearfield Municipal Authority - one of the buyers from last year.
It actually sold $150,000 worth of credits to Clearfield, but by the rules of funding received from Pennvest to upgrade the plants, Pennvest gets half the take, according to Mark Glenn of Gwin Dobson & Foreman, the authority's consulting engineer.
The authority also arranged with Pennvest to begin marketing credits through that agency, which holds periodic auctions through a third-party provider.
So far, all the credits the authority has sold have come from the better-than-necessary performance of the Westerly plant, where essential work finished about a year ago.
This fiscal year, the authority should have even more credits, because its Easterly plant has been operating on the renovated system since December.
Workers should complete essential work on that plant by June.
At the Westerly plant last year, early results showed it was discharging less than half the pollutants the state allows.
Supply and demand drives the price of credits, according to authority General Manager Mark Perry.
Prices per pound for nitrogen at a March 20 Pennvest auction varied from $2.98 to $3.12 a pound, according to the agency website.
There were no "winners" for potential phosphorus sales, according to the site.
No Altoona credits were dealt, as far as he knows, Glenn said.
Nutrient trading provides "more efficient" ways for "permitees to meet their effluent limits," according to a nutrient trading website of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Authority member Tom Martin asked what would happen if authorities ignored the environmental requirements and failed to make up for it by purchasing credits or by paying subsequent fines.
Ultimately, courts can hold officials personally responsible, even to the extent of jailing them, according to Glenn.
That happened in the 1970s, and "it got the message out," he said.
Environmental responsibilities are "not dischargeable" through bankruptcy, said solicitor Alan Krier.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.