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Londonderry Township keeps grappling with sewer issues

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 7/17/19

Londonderry Township plans to move ahead with installing public sewers in Londonderry Estates, a housing development on the eastern edge of the township near the Conewago Township line.

However, …

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Londonderry Township keeps grappling with sewer issues

Posted

Londonderry Township plans to move ahead with installing public sewers in Londonderry Estates, a housing development on the eastern edge of the township near the Conewago Township line.

However, township manager Steve Letavic said it might take three years for the sewers to be designed, permitted and installed.

Londonderry Estates is in the area of Woodcrest Drive. In November, several of its residents asked when public sewer lines would come to their development.

In a spring 2016 filing with the state Department of Environmental Protection, Londonderry Estates was identified as one of the areas in the township to receive public sewer under the township’s sewage facilities plan called the Act 537 plan for the 1966 Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act.

The project was estimated to cost $1.5 million. Londonderry’s Act 537 plan called for the Londonderry Estates sewers to be fully operational five years after the plan was approved by the DEP.

While the township has started working on bringing public sewer to Londonderry Estates, Letavic told the supervisors during their July 1 meeting that the DEP was being “patient” with the township but added that the township needed to make progress on its sewer issues.

In an email to the Press & Journal, Letavic said he anticipated that the township would start the process of applying for a Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (or PennVEST) grant and loan in August. Letavic said up to 20 percent of the project cost could be covered through by a PennVEST grant and the rest would be covered through a loan.

However, he plans to meet with residents to gauge their thoughts on the timing of the project before moving forward with the application.

The sewage would go to the Derry Township Municipal Authority, or DTMA, Southwest Water Treatment Facility in the township.

“We have enough capacity for what the township is viewing as phase one of their sewer plan,” DTMA Executive Director Wayne Schutz told the Press & Journal.

For now, Schutz said DTMA is able to help out, but it will have to upgrade and expand the plant in the future.

The other part of the township slated for public sewers, Sewer District No. 2 and 3, runs along Route 230 and are located in the northwest and southeast part of the township.

“We originally were going to do one large PennVEST application for the 230 corridor project and Londonderry Estates, but the potential developers of the 230 corridor have indicated that they do not want to be part of a PennVEST application, so we will treat Londonderry Estates as a standalone project,” Letavic said.

In April, he said two new developers have taken over the proposed housing development projects on Lytle Farms and School Heights Village behind Saturday’s Market, which originally proposed to add several thousand new residences to the township.

In the past, Letavic has said the projects hinge on infrastructure.

Letavic estimated during the meeting that bringing public sewer to the Route 230 corridor would cost about $26 million.

“Those numbers are just staggering. Our normal general fund budget is $2 million a year. So $26 million, you can do the math,” Letavic said.

He told the Press & Journal that the next step for bringing sewer to the 230 area would be to work on an agreement with DTMA — including construction costs and how it would be funded, flows, available capacity and how much any plant upgrades would be — and finding developers so the cost wouldn’t fall squarely on residents.

Letavic told the supervisors the township was deciding between pursuing public sewer through DTMA, or through Suez in Middletown.

In July 2016, Letavic said he hoped to have an agreement with Suez to provide sewer service to the township before the supervisors by October.

“So we met with Suez and went back to revisit the original agreement, which was that originally they had agreed that they were going to run the line from Middletown to Londonderry and build a pump station. However, when we got the agreement finalized, they said they were not going to do that,” Letavic said.

Letavic said they wanted to meet again, but the conversations were sidetracked as a result of Suez’s litigation with Middletown.

In 2014, the borough decided to lease its water and sewer systems to Suez, which was then known as United Water, and is part of Middletown Water Joint Venture LLC. The borough sued the joint venture in April 2018 after Suez imposed an 11.5 percent surcharge to recoup revenue that the company said was lost to the joint venture resulting from a water sales shortfall that happened during the first three years of the lease.

The lawsuit was dismissed in March.

“They thought they were far enough along that we could meet again and talk about this process and we did that,” Letavic said.

The township asked Suez to get a proposal to them by the end of June to see if they had the capacity and ability to serve the township’s sewer needs.

Suez spokeswoman Ghilianie Soto told the Press & Journal that Suez had “preliminary” conversations to expand the township’s wastewater system, which included building a new pump station and developing a pipeline to serve the township through the Middletown Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“Although no agreement has been finalized, this expansion of services would benefit the township as they do not have their own wastewater facility,” Soto said.

Soto noted that the borough’s litigation was dismissed, “and the arbitration between the parties has no connection to any discussions with Londonderry Township.”