Cranberry moves ahead with treatment plant plan

Cranberry Township moved another step closer Tuesday to constructing and operating its own municipal wastewater treatment plant.

Members of the township’s General Authority voted to submit a detailed Act 537 plan, a state-required outline of the proposed project, to the state Department of Environmental Protection at a meeting Tuesday.

The decision comes after a 30-day comment period designed to answer any questions related to the initiative.

“Only one minor comment came in,” said Kyle Fritz, an engineer with the EADS group out of the engineering consulting firm’s Clarion office.

That comment related to a suggestion that the township also explore designing the wastewater treatment plant to allow discharges from recreational vehicles as well as septic haulers to be processed at the Cranberry plant. Fritz said that option may be considered in any final design.

In the past year, the township has readied the Act 537 plan for submission. It addresses the potential construction of a treatment plant in the area near the Route 62 and Seneca Hill intersection.

The new system carries an estimated price tag of $22 million.

Prompting the project has been a long and often contentious relationship with the City of Oil City that treats wastewater from about 1,900 commercial and residential customers, identified as “equivalent dwelling units”, in the township. Rising sewage bills charged by the city is a significant part of the township’s quest to build its own system.

The township does not have its own public wastewater treatment plant and a large number of township households and businesses rely on private septic systems.

Noting there is potential for expansion to new customers once the township system is in place, Fritz said earlier that “it will be built for further growth.”

Fritz said the new system would save money for township residents. Oil City’s billing to Cranberry Township for sewage treatment services have gone up an average of 7 percent a year, he said.

The average cost per consumer (operation, maintenance, upgrades) over the life of the new system would be $86.24, compared to $127.83 per customer using the city system, he said in an earlier report.

Minimum rate challenged

In other matters, some township residents who own rental properties questioned why the township charges about $50 per month as a minimal sewage charge for a property that is vacant.

“How was it calculated?” asked Andy Restauri, adding that he is interested in an analysis as to why the rate was decided for “zero usage.”

Karen Wenner, chairman of the authority, said the township made upgrades to sewage pipe laterals and other wastewater treatment infrastructure at the request of the City of Oil City. That work incurred “large expenses” and those costs, plus rising rates charged by the city, resulted in higher sewage billings.

The minimal rates, applicable to properties that may be vacant, help pay for those upgrades.

Rob Eakin, an authority member, said that while the sewage flow was reduced due to the infrastructure work, the rates continued to go up.

“We have absolutely no control over Oil City,” said Eakin.

In commenting on the rate hikes, Fritz said, “It is cheaper for the township to have its own system.”