Regionalizing water and wastewater facilities: is it the right choice for your community?
After considering multiple alternatives brought on by regulatory compliance mandates and antiquated wastewater treatment plants with site and age-related issues, it was the right choice for several municipalities in Central Pennsylvania.
The Tiadaghton Valley Municipal Authority (TVMA) serves the wastewater needs of Jersey Shore Borough and portions of Porter and Nippenose Townships in Lycoming County. TVMA was created in 2008 by the Jersey Shore Borough Council and the Porter Township Supervisors to implement the recommendations contained in their Act 537 Sewage Facilities Plan. That plan addressed needs of the aging wastewater plant that was located in a residential area of the Borough, as well as addressing nutrient compliance requirements of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement.
TVMA recently completed a $24M project that includes a new 1.05 MGD wastewater treatment plant and the extension of sanitary sewer service to Nippenose Township. The new plant went on line in March 2014. As a result of this consolidation, user rates were significantly less than if each entity had built new plants on their own.
In another recent regionalization, the West Branch Regional Authority (WBRA) serves the wastewater needs of Muncy and Montgomery Boroughs and portions of Clinton, Muncy, and Muncy Creek Townships in Lycoming County. WBRA is in the final stages of completing a $30M project, including consolidating two wastewater treatment plants and replacing them with a new 2.4 MGD sequencing batch reactor plant. The new plant went on line in March 2015.
Regionalization requires the cooperation of the involved municipalities and a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of all involved parties. Open communication is key to success. For existing systems, the transfer of assets must be considered, including both infrastructure and capital assets. In some cases, this may include transition of staffing from one municipal entity to another.
Decisions need to be made in an open, public forum and should be documented in a Memorandum of Understanding and Asset Transfer Agreement. Patience is also needed, since it can take years to finalize a regionalization agreement between municipalities.
With proper planning and municipal cooperation, regionalizing water, wastewater, and stormwater facilities can be a win-win for the municipalities involved and their customers.