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Delmont is going forward with a project to move its sewage line

Delmont officials are moving forward with plans to deal with a sewage-related state agreement order, after winning a court battle to condemn and secure approximately a half-acre of property in Salem Township.

Delmont officials are progressing with plans to deal with a state agreement related to sewage order, after winning a court battle to take and secure about a half-acre of land in Salem Township.

As part of an agreement made with the state Department of Environmental Protection in April 2020, borough officials suggested moving and replacing a gravity line and a force main that go through Salem despite being part of Delmont’s system.

Common Pleas Judge Chris Scherer’s eminent domain ruling allows the borough to have a 40-foot-wide easement through a section of the trust property.

But the ruling also mentions that the borough had already essentially taken other sections of property without officially condemning it, dating back to the summer of 2015.

The lines in question run through the property of the Rock Springs Trust, where, during significant wet weather, manholes have consistently released a mix of stormwater and untreated sewage onto the property and into a tributary of Beaver Run. The lines have needed many repairs over the years, and stormwater runoff has eroded parts of the stream, exposing several sections of line.

Delmont council voted unanimously Tuesday to advertise a contract for a project that would place an interceptor along Christy Road, and also move the force main.

Borough solicitor Dan Hewitt said the deadline to appeal Scherer’s January ruling on the condemnation had passed.

“We’re under this agreement and we need to proceed,” Hewitt said. “This project would replace the gravity line and the force main. This is to get it away from the (nearby) stream and to have the lines run parallel and not stacked on top of one another.”

The project would also eliminate a sharp angle leading to the borough’s pump station.

“We tried to make it as straight as possible,” Councilman Stan Cheyne said. “There are a lot of gas company rights-of way out there as well.”

Rock Springs officials worked with their own engineer to propose an alternative route which would accomplish the same goals, but trust member Ed Rebitch said it didn’t generate any interest from the borough.

“We talked about it in court, but the judge’s position was that he couldn’t rule on which route was better. He had to rule whether the condemnation was legally performed,” Rebitch said.

Cheyne said the line relocation project could cost up to $1 million. The borough secured a $311,000 grant in 2020 from the Pennsylvania Small Water and Sewer Program that will go toward that cost.

A possible second — and significantly more costly — phase of the agreement would involve building an equalization tank to hold excess flow, in order to eliminate the sewage overflows that have affected the Rock Springs Trust property in the past. Borough engineers estimate the tank could cost up to $3.5 million.

Part of the borough’s agreement, however, requires it to identify and eliminate as much inflow and infiltration as possible. Inflow and infiltration is when storm water makes its way into the sewage system, either through illegal residential connections or through damage in existing sewage infrastructure.

That work has been happening for the last few years.

The aim is to get rid of all rainwater from the sewage system,” Cheyne explained. “If we achieve that, we won’t need the equalization tank.”

Lennon Smith Souleret Project Manager Dalton Mack suggested that the borough should still think about applying for federal appropriations grants in expectation of needing to do the equalization-tank project. Those grants usually require a 10-15% match in local funding, and applications are due by March 29.

“The flow monitoring after the relocation of the lines will determine how large the equalization tank needs to be,” Mack said.

Rock Springs Trust members submitted a petition March 5 to assess damages resulting from Delmont’s condemnation and the de facto taking of property, as per the Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code.

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