City, AWA, Logan team up to tackle sewer problems

39th Street residents voice complaints over storm runoff

Chad Williams looks over the saturated yard of his Maple Avenue home in Altoona on Monday afternoon. Rain water overflows a drainage ditch behind his property. “It’s disgusting,” Williams said in describing conditions caused by failing septic systems, the lack of sanitary line and inadequate storm drainage. (Mirror photo by William Kibler)

The city, the Altoona Water Authority and Logan Township are working together to solve problems with sanitary sewage and storm runoff along 39th Street in Eldorado, which runs downhill past Walnut, Oak and Maple avenues.

The efforts came to light last week after residents complained at a City Council meeting about storm runoff problems that have plagued them for years.

The complaints followed gripes at a council meeting in April from a man whose plans to build a home on 39th Street have been frustrated because of the lack of a sanitary sewer line.

Both sanitary and storm sewer preparations are in the works, but they’re not likely to be completed soon enough to satisfy the complainants, said Interim City Manager Peter Marshall.

One resident cried on the podium as he recounted his problem with sewer water crossing his yard, where his grandchildren swim in a pool.

“It’s disgusting,” said Chad Williams, who lives on the 3900 block of Maple Avenue, describing conditions caused by failing septic systems, the lack of a sanitary line to solve that problem and the lack of adequate storm drainage.

Storm runoff has troubled the Sinisi family for 24 years, since they moved into their home just below Williams’ house without realizing the previous owner had flooding issues with runoff.

The continuation of that flooding would prevent them from selling their home at a reasonable price, Marianne Sinisi said.

The city installed a pipe to help the runoff problem, the Sinisis installed another pipe to catch water from the first one and later installed a wall — investing a total of $8,000 — while Williams has done work too, but the runoff still overwhelms the ineffectual infrastructure, Sinisi said.

Another neighbor talked about “the geyser in my yard.”

“I’m asking that something be done,” Sinisi said.

“We’re working hard to come up with a solution,” Marshall said.

“We’re getting very close,” said City Councilman Dave Butterbaugh. “But we need to ensure we do things the right way.”

It will be expensive, he indicated.

The likely solution to the storm runoff problem is a detention pond, Marshall said.

The solution to the sanitary problem is a line extension — although council tabled a resolution that was on the agenda that would have authorized that extension, pending the availability of more information.

The resolution called for complying with a DEP order to correct the sanitary sewer problem by completing the design of the line extension to serve four homes and four lots and applying a “special assessment” to help pay for the project.

The order was in response to the complaint in April from the man whose construction plans have been delayed.

The sanitary project serving those eight sites would cost $156,000, according to a memo from Marshall included in the council meeting packet.

The Altoona Water Authority, in accord with its policy, would do the $74,000 installation without charging the city or the property owners, according to the memo, which proposed three options for covering the remaining $82,000 cost.

In one, each of the eight property owners would pay a $10,000 assessment over either five years or 10 years, with interest.

In another, the city would cover the $24,000 cost of repaving, permits and easements, so the owners would need to pay only $7,000 over either five or 10 years.

In the third option, the city would cover the cost of repaving, permits and easements and also pay 10 percent of the remaining cost for the owners of the homes — though not for the owners of the lots.

The line would extend 1,200 feet, Public Works Director Nate Kissell said previously.

“We’re actively concerned,” Councilwoman Christie Jordan told the residents. “We’re not ignoring you.”

Meanwhile, the Logan Township supervisors have talked about an extension of their own, which would attach to the city’s and go another 1,200 feet, to take care of three problem properties and open up additional ones for development, officials have said.

Logan Township Manager Tim Brown met with township Sewer Department Director Dave Pozgar last week to discuss issues, Brown said.

If the city fails to construct its extension, the township would need to undertake a more difficult and expensive project involving a pump station, township Planning Director Cassandra Schmick has said.

The township has talked about using Community Development Block Grant money for its portion of the work.

The supervisors are awaiting more information on the project, said Chairman Jim Patterson and Supervisor Joe Metzgar.