When it rains in Gallitzin, the wastewater treatment plant operator must close valves to divert flow into local streams.
Much of that flow is raw sewage, which should be treated at the facility.
But excess flow through the plant would wash away microorganisms that break down waste, and restoring the operation often takes weeks, said John Clabaugh, an engineer with Stiffler McGraw of Hollidaysburg.
Federal and state environmental officials have warned the excess flow must stop or huge fines could be imposed for failure to comply.
That will cost money for those who use the sewage system.
During heavy rains, inflow and infiltration overwhelms the 400,000-gallon capacity of the plant, which has an 80-year-old clay collection system.
Joel Romagna, also of Stiffler McGraw and engineer for the Gallitzin Sewer and Disposal Authority, told authority members and elected officials from the boroughs of Gallitzin and Tunnelhill and Gallitzin Township on Tuesday that the plant overload is a chronic problem.
“When it rains, basically one half of the flow goes into the stream (untreated) and one-half flows into the plant,” Romagna said.
Driving the guidelines are efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, starting at local streams, Clabaugh said.
The only solution is replacing the collection system and private laterals at a cost of nearly $7.5 million and construction of a new treatment plant at a cost of $9.2 million. Total project cost: Nearly $17 million.
The impact on sewage rates, now at $27 per month for the first 2,000 gallons, will be significant, but there are no options, Clabaugh said.
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