Potter Township seeks funding to move Potters Mills sewer project forward

About seven years ago, Potter Township identified problems with some of the sewer systems in the Potters Mills area.

The sewage enforcement officer found systems that were malfunctioning, some wells were contaminated and Potter Run, an adjacent stream, had some contamination, said Dick Decker, chairman of Potter Township Supervisors.

In updating its Act 537 plan (the sewage plan for the township), the township evaluated the 43 on-lot systems in the proposed service area and found that almost 40 percent had confirmed malfunctions and another 32 percent had suspected malfunctions, said Kerry Tyson, senior project manager at Nittany Engineering-A Division of Century Engineering.

The updated Act 537 plan was approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection in 2015, Tyson said. In it, the problem was identified and numerous solutions were evaluated.

The township has been working since then on a plan for a public sewer system.

Most of the necessary permits are in hand, Tyson said.

But the project is at a bit of standstill.

Potter Township has received funding from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority — about $1.6 million in loans (at 1 percent for 30 years) and $1.3 million in grants.

Unfortunately, Tyson said, when they ran the numbers with only 140 people living in the sewer service area, the monthly user rate — operating cost plus loan management — was too high.

“Funding’s the key right now,” he said. “Everything hinges on: Can sufficient additional funding be found to make this an affordable project for the citizens of Potters Mills?”

And that’s where Centre County is stepping in.

The county is applying on behalf of the township for Community Development Block Grant funding, said Matt Milliron, senior planner in the Centre County planning office.

CDBG money is administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

The application is due by the end of September, Milliron said, adding that it’s the competitive CDBG program — meaning that they’ll be competing against everyone else in the commonwealth for funding.

If the county is successful in getting grant money from the CDBG program (which they’ll likely know by the end of the year), he said, that will mean Potter Township can borrow less from PennVEST.

“We cannot move without funding,” Decker said. “There’s just no way to pay for it.”

Milliron said they’ll likely ask for between $750,000 and $1 million in CDBG money.

“Potter Township (is) proactive,” Tyson said. “They saw a problem and they, for years, have taken steps to deal with the problem. ... They’ve got everything in line and they’re trying to solve a problem, but they’re to the point now they need funding ... . They’ve done their due diligence, and they haven’t hid from it. They’ve addressed a problem head on.”

The last estimate for total project cost was about $3 million, Decker said, but the township won’t know the exact cost until the final designs are completed and they get the bids.

Should the project receive the funding it needs to move forward, the township will install new septic tanks to pretreat wastewater before its pumped via pressure sewer system to a treatment plant, Tyson said. The plant will have a capacity of 14,000 gallons per day.

The treated wastewater will then be discharged into Sinking Creek, Decker said.

Potter Township will own and maintain the system, Tyson said.

“We have to get this to happen quick,” Decker said, “and we’ve been doubling down and trying to get everything done.”

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz