Murrysville officials debate who should pay for sewer logistics |
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Patrick Varine

It might cost between $25,000 and $50,000 to incorporate about 35 Murrysville properties into the sewage plans of the Municipal Authority of Washington Township, and Murrysville officials say a different sewage authority should foot the bill for that work.

Located in the Pucketa Watershed in northern Murrysville, none of the properties are connected to a sewage system. Although several property owners have said they want to ditch septic systems for sewer lines, the process to enable them to do so has proven to be a contentious issue for officials from Murrysville; the Franklin Township Municipal Sewer Authority, or FTMSA; and its Washington Township counterpart.

Last month, officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection recommended the two communities and both sewer agencies amend their sewage-facilities plans to allow properties along a northern portion of Murrysville to be connected to Washington Township’s sewer system.

The process would include:

• Evaluating the capacity of the Valley treatment plant.

• Identifying homes with known sewer malfunctions. Murrysville Chief Administrator Jim Morrison said that “a number” of Pucketa Watershed homes have failing or near-failing septic systems.

• Undertaking an alternative cost analysis and environmental assessment.

• Drafting an intergovernmental agreement permitting access to Washington Township’s system.

Morrison said a homeowner in the watershed recently was unable to sell his home, due in large part to the property’s sewer status. After appealing to the state, and with the consent of all parties involved, the homeowner was granted permission to tap into the Washington Township system.

That home isn’t yet connected, said Washington Township Supervisor Rich Gardner, who also is a member of the township’s municipal authority board.

“We’re trying to work to make that happen,” Gardner said. However, he said Washington Township officials aren’t willing to spend any more money to do it.

“This has been an issue since about 2010,” he said. “We started a project in June 2011 to provide sewage to the Pucketa Creek section of Washington Township. Forty to fifty thousand dollars was spent trying to include those Murrysville residents initially.”

Gardner said any agreement would have to be approved by authorities in the Kiski and Allegheny valleys and that Murrysville bears some responsibility, as well.

“We’re quite willing to help these people if they need it, but at this point we’re not going to spend more money,” he said. “(State environmental officials) had given us a list of (sewage-facilities updates) that needed to be done, and we felt Murrysville should be doing a lot of those things, like documenting malfunctioning systems. Once you do that, you have to fix it, so we weren’t about to open a can of worms and be on the hook for fixing systems on houses in Murrysville.”

Morrison and several members of Murrysville Council said the FTMSA should pay for the updates.

“We have no responsibility for sanitary sewers in Murrysville,” Morrison said.

Council President Joan Kearns agreed.

“This has been a lingering issue for years,” Kearns said. “And FTMSA has stuck its head in the soil, and there are some pretty hard heads at both FTMSA and (the) Washington Township (authority).”

Councilman Jeff Kepler was similarly direct.

“I think our municipal authority should foot the bill for this effort, and it’s our responsibility to put pressure on them to do so,” he said.

Council directed Morrison in early November to send a letter to the authority requesting as much. FTMSA manager Jim Brucker said Tuesday that his office had not yet received such a letter and that he wasn’t comfortable commenting on the possibility of the FTMSA paying for the work.

However, Brucker said he thinks Morrison’s $25,000 to $50,000 estimate is too high.

“I don’t think it will cost anywhere near that,” he said. “I helped write the last Act 537 (sewage-facilities plan) for Murrysville — they asked me to be part of the committee — and I don’t know if the whole thing cost that much.”

Patrick Varine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2365 or [email protected].

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