Rivers, Regionalization, and Relocation: Wastewater regionalization techniques
The Susquehanna River is the lifeblood of many central Pennsylvania towns, and has been for centuries. Before being settled by Europeans, the areas surrounding the Susquehanna River were crucial to native inhabitants’ survival. When excavating these areas, it’s common to find artifacts that show us how Native Americans relied upon the river just as we do today.
Located about 5,000 feet underground is another one of Pennsylvania’s most valuable resources, the Marcellus Shale formation. This formation was the source of one of the biggest gas booms on record and brought countless natural gas exploration companies and support companies to Pennsylvania’s otherwise heavily forested western and northern regions.
What do these two distinctly different resources have in common? Directional drilling. This type of drilling was was pioneered in the early 20th century. It is typically used when vertical drilling is difficult or there is an obstruction, such as a river or a difficult formation. Not only is directional drilling needed to extract shale gas from 5,000 feet below, it is often a key component in constructing new infrastructure that allows towns to combine services to provide a regionally-based wastewater treatment solution.
An example of a regional wastewater treatment solution is the Borough of Jersey Shore in Lycoming County. The old plant was located in the floodplain and needed major upgrades. Across the river, a nearby township had a need for a new plant to address a large number of failing on-lot systems.
Relocation and Regionalization
The solution was relocation and regionalization. A joint authority was formed and a parcel of land was purchased out of the floodplain in the neighboring township. There was only one problem: not only is the river in the way, there was an island at the exact location where the conveyance pipe needed to cross. Care was needed, as Native American artifacts were discovered on this island.
In years past, a river crossing would require coffer dams, dewatering, and land bridges to construct. With the innovative directional drilling technology that was refined for gas drilling, these crossings can now be constructed with minimal impact to the rivers, adjacent lands, and any other sensitive resources. A 3,280-foot directional drill was proposed and ultimately constructed, providing an economical solution to serve the needs of the communities involved.
Similarly, Montgomery Borough (Lycoming County) was in need of a new wastewater treatment plant. Across the river, Muncy Borough and Muncy Creek Township had similar needs. Rather than constructing two new wastewater treatment plants, a new authority was formed and a wastewater treatment plant was constructed to serve the needs of all parties on both sides of the river. Once again, the solution was relocation and regionalization. And, once again, a river runs between the towns, making a 900-foot directional drilled river crossing necessary.
And it’s not just the Susquehanna River—in Newport, PA, agreements have been made to allow the neighboring township to connect to the Newport wastewater treatment plant. The Juniata River and a Norfolk Southern railroad mainline runs right between the two service areas, requiring an 800-foot directional drill. This is currently in the design phase and will be constructed in 2016. This type of design is becoming more and more prevalent in Pennsylvania.