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Customers asked for input on Reservoir Road sewer extension

Project would increase current bills by $10 a month

DUNCANSVILLE — The Blair Township Water and Sewer Authority is asking current customers for input about a potential sewer extension project that could increase current sewer bills by $10 a month.

The extension along Reservoir Road is projected to serve about 225 households, including many with malfunctioning on-lot systems, sewer authority Manager Tim McGaw said Monday.

The proposed project could also open that area of the township to development, he said.

On the other hand, if the project moves forward without more money, then a portion of the cost will fall to the sewer system’s current 1,800 customers.

Estimates show they will have to pay about $10 a month, McGaw said, but efforts will continue to find grants and/or low-interest loans.

The authority, which has long been interested in what is now estimated at a $7.5 million project, is scheduled to discuss the proposed sewer extension during its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Because the meeting is being convened by teleconference due to the coronavirus pandemic, those interested in listening or participating should email KMCGAW@BTWSA.org or call 695-6300 for access numbers.

“We sent letters out to about 1,800 customers and based on the ones we’ve heard from so far, about 95 percent are against it,” McGaw said.

The letter also advises sewer customers that a lack of response “will be considered as confirmation of support for extension of the proposed public sewer.”

The authority’s recent letter to sewer customers and an earlier letter to residents in the Reservoir Road area, were written after the authority got a letter from Blair County Sewage Enforcement officer Luke Helsel.

In his December letter, Helsel reported that more than 70 homes along Reservoir Road, between Frankstown Township and Monastery Road, had improperly functioning or malfunctioning sewage systems resulting in unhealthy or unsafe wastewater conditions.

Helsel spoke of drainage from those sewer systems polluting groundwater and entering local streams, ditches and in some cases, creating cesspools.

In July 2018, when the Blair County Planning Commission reviewed the proposed sewer extension project, it recognized a benefit from the project as less pollution into the Juniata River Basin. The commission also recognized that the project could allow for development in an area with limited potential.

While Helsel recommended that the authority undertake the sewer extension project, he referenced alternative options “such as sand mounds, drip dispersal or secondary filtration, usually at an expense of tens of thousands of dollars.”

Helsel also specified that because many lots wouldn’t be large enough to accommodate an alternate system, another option would be installation of a sewage holding tank that requires pumping up to several times a month.

McGaw said he has spoken with state Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, and state Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Hollidaysburg, about the proposed extension project and the need for financial help.

Before the project could move forward, the authority would have to direct engineers to design the extension and it would have to seek permits through the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“It’s a big undertaking,” McGaw said of the proposed project.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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