In order to comply with federal and state guidelines, Tunkhannock Borough is considering the possibility of installing a storm water delivery system independent of the sewer delivery system.
At present, storm water flowing on and around Putnam Street near the Wyoming County Correctional Facility is diverted into two underground catch basins. From those catch basins, the storm water is discharged directly into the sewer lines and sent to the borough’s Waste Water Treatment Plant.
The plant - which normally processes about 200,000 gallons of water per day - was designed and permitted to treat up to 300,000 gallons. But when a heavy rain storm occurs, the resulting storm water can push the plant way beyond its capacity.
Roger Hadsall, manager of the Tunkhannock Borough Municipal Authority, reported that he and others at the sewer plant were kept busy by the rain storm which passed through the area on July 22. Their efforts were successful, Hadsall said, there was no discharge of raw sewage, but they had to constantly monitor the system to make certain the system did not overflow.
Tunkhannock Borough Council member Ben Barziloski, who is head of the Storm Water Committee, explained that the situation is like a one-inch pipe suddenly having to accommodate 1,000 gallons of water attempting to pass through it.
The situation was brought to the forefront during the last permit cycle for the Waste Water Treatment Plant overseen by the Department of Environmental Protection.
“What the DEP proposed was language (in the permit) that would allow no storm water in the sewage collection system,” Hadsall explained. “I objected to that language, because a violation would have occurred in the borough the next time it rained.”
The language was changed, but it was evident to Hadsall and other local officials that DEP would continue to press to have storm water eliminated from the sewer system. As a result, the Tunkhannock Borough Council formed an ad hoc committee to study the situation, and recently authorized the payment of a maximum of $7,500 to hire someone to see what money is available to help pay for building a storm water delivery system in the affected area, and to write the grants to obtain the necessary funds.
Tunkhannock Borough Council President Stacy Huber, who is also a member of the municipal authority, emphasized that the proposed project is in a very early preliminary stage, with nothing in place at this point. He said council and the municipal authority will continue to study and obtain information about the situation, and will make the necessary announcements when they are ready to make any decisions.
The storm water system in place on Putnam Street is a holdover from Waste Water Treatment Plant was constructed in 1963. Over the years, other systems in which the storm water was transferred into the sewer lines were altered, allowing the storm water to be diverted and discharged directly into one of the local streams or the river.
One possibility, Huber said, would be the installation of new storm water lines, allowing the storm water generated on Putnam Street to be discharged either directly into the river or a creek, without having to be processed through the Waste Water Treatment Plant. The problem is how to get the money necessary to pay for the project.
“I want to emphasize that we didn’t just sit there and come up with the idea,” Huber said. “Although it’s a good idea. But the responsibility came from the higher ups. The federal government with the Clean Water Act, and the DEP.”