Carmichaels water authority seeks cash for improvements

February 12, 2013

CARMICHAELS – Carmichaels Municipal Authority is investigating sources of funding to make improvements to its water system aimed at lowering the levels of trihalomethane in its treated water when trihalomethane levels normally rise in the late summer.

The authority asked its engineer Monday to explore avenues of funding to implement recommendations of a study received last month by his firm, KLH Engineering, to address the trihalomethane issue.

Board members also reported on their efforts, including meetings with elected officials, to find money to complete the work.

The authority needs about $500,000 to implement recommendations of the study, authority engineer James Willard of KLH said Monday.

It had asked Cumberland Township, where many of the authority’s customers reside, to contribute $500,000 for the project from the township’s Act 13 impact fee revenue generated by natural gas well drilled within the township.

The township received more than $1 million in Act 13 money in November and was told that if drilling in the township continues at the same pace this year to expect a similar check in June.

The supervisors earlier this month denied the authority’s request, saying the township code did not give them legal authority to make the contribution.

The supervisors also noted the township has no affiliation with the authority, which was formed by Carmichaels Borough, and had not received a specific plan from the authority on work that would be completed with the funds.

Authority chairman Dennis McCann said he had met with state Rep. Pam Snyder and state Sen. Tim Solobay to discuss the authority’s problem.

He said he asked them to check whether municipalities can provide Act 13 money to an authority as well as whether changes can be made to allow the state to distribute Act 13 money directly to an authority instead of providing the funds only to municipalities and counties.

McCann said he also intends to meet with Carmichaels Borough and the county to see if they have money they can contribute toward the project.

“I’m not giving up on this,” he said.

McCann said he also has learned the federal Environmental Protection Agency has funding programs and green energy grants that might be available if the authority incorporated alternative energy sources, such as solar panels, in its project design. He said he also planned to meet with several local banks about financing.

Willard said the authority could consider funding through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure and Investment Authority, Pennvest, but that funding would come in the form of a low-interest loan and administrative requirements may drive up the total costs.

He also suggested asking municipalities for a portion of their Community Development Block Grant money, though most don’t receive large amounts of CDBG funds.

The authority failed to comply in late 2010 and early 2011 with federal safe drinking water standards for trihalomethane. However, since the summer of 2011 it has met the standard, testing well under federal limits for the compound.

KHL’s trihalomethane study had recommended operational adjustments in the authority’s treatment process to reduce trihalomethane levels, several of which have already been implemented.

Those recommendations that will require capital expenditures include installing aeration systems on authority storage tanks, replacing the filter control system at the plant and installing equipment to allow chlorination of treated water leaving the authority’s tanks.

Customer Terri Donaldson addressed the board, saying she was disappointed no one from the authority attended the supervisor’s meeting to explain the need for the money.

McCann said the board knew before hand that the supervisors were going to deny the request. He said he had talked to the supervisors several times about the matter.

Board member Wally Jackson also said he believed the township’s engineer was supposed to contact the authority’s engineer about the trihalomethane study, but that never happened.

Donaldson said she still knew customers who refuse to drink the authority’s water.

The authority has discussed setting up a public meeting to discuss the trihalomethane study and what was being done to improve the system. Board member Edgar Harris said he hoped that would help restore customer’s faith in the authority.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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