Frequently Asked Questions about Proposed Central Sewage for the Milford Borough Commercial District
Milford Borough Commercial District
Q: Why central sewage for Milford Borough Commercial District?
A: Milford Borough, the Pike County Seat, has a population of @1000 with 500 properties, including a nursing home, a brain trauma rehabilitation center, and multiple county buildings all within ½ square mile. As originally designed in 1796, lot sizes in the Borough are small and close together. The original sanitation technologies utilized cesspools and wells. Over 60% of town properties still use cesspools today.
The Borough is bordered on three sides by designated exceptional water quality streams and the Delaware River. Today each water body is monitored by the Delaware River Basin Commission, an inter-state agency charged with restoring and maintaining the quality of the River and its watershed.
Today 50% of the Borough population are renters; 20 percent of the properties are multi-family units or mixed use, and the businesses in the commercial district are focused on providing services to residents and the large tourist industry . The county offices, courthouse and medical facilities bring another 500 to 700 people daily into the village. The commercial/tourist industry is a major contributor to the tax base and its viability contributes to quality of life and property values for everyone in the community. Today 41 properties in our commercial district produce 25% of the Borough wastewater (35,000 gallons daily/12,775,000 yearly) and some cornerstone businesses spend tens of thousands of dollars pumping their sewage each year. This situation is not sustainable.
For these reasons it was time to evaluate central sewage for the Milford Borough Commercial District:
- A plan is needed for eventual sewage failures on the small lots in the commercial district. There has been no viable on-lot solution for the businesses, most at risk, that are already spending $40,000 to $50,000 a year pumping sewage. Given the quantities of wastewater produced, this situation will eventually expand to other businesses in this district.
- Cesspools have not been permitted for new or replacement systems since 1970.
- Lack of adequate sanitation facilities is hindering new food service establishments from opening in the town.
- Lack of adequate sanitation facilities is hindering establishments from expanding to insure their financial viability.
- Lack of adequate wastewater disposal will limit and define the types of businesses that can open in the borough.
- Disappearance of restaurants, food service, and medical/dental facilities will fundamentally alter the town’s appeal and negatively affect Borough property values.
Q: Is Central Sewage a new idea in Milford Borough?
A: No. It is not a new idea. Central sewage for Milford Borough has been under consideration for more than 40 years. The proposal dates back to the 1978 comprehensive plan. Milford Borough was presented with the current Westfall option in July 2019 and since then it has been discussed at over 30 public meetings.
Alternative sewage options that have previously been considered:
- Community On Lot Systems. These require adequate land which is not available in the Borough and given that the Borough is surrounded on three sides by exceptional quality streams and rivers, this solution was found to be not cost effective.
- Build a separate Borough central sewage plant. The lack of available land in the Borough and its location in a watershed of exceptional quality makes this option cost prohibitive with the following concerns:
- The cost of finding and purchasing sufficient land;
- The cost of installing conveyance pipe lines to connect to a more appropriate remote location;
- The cost of building a sewage disposal system (every option proposed requires a full treatment facility)
- The ongoing costs of running a system: chemicals, utilities, licensed staff, sludge disposal etc.
Q: Why central sewage for Milford Borough Commercial District Now?
A: In 2018 Westfall Township announced their plans to extend their central sewage conveyance line to the Milford Township border. With this announcement central sewage for Milford Borough became an economic possibility due to the reduction in cost ($2,500,000) to the Borough. In 2019 Milford Borough, Milford Township, Westfall Township and Matamoras Borough entered into an inter-municipal agreement with the Westfall Authority to study the technical and financial feasibility of connecting their commercial districts to the Westfall Township Waste Management Plant. This study would ultimately produce a 537 Sewage Disposal Plan for these municipalities.
Q: Are there environmental and/or health benefits?
A: Yes. Central sewage systems improve and preserve the purity of ground and surface water for the protection of public health, animal and aquatic life and for recreation.
The Westfall Sewage Treatment Facility is controlled and monitored by the Delaware River Basin Commission which has authority over the quantity and quality of discharge by every wastewater facility and their cumulative effect in the Delaware watershed since 1960s. The Sawkill, Vandermark and the Delaware River through Milford, have been designated as exceptional quality. The DRBC continually monitors and controls the Delaware and its watershed for water quality and they exercise tight controls over all waste facilities discharging into the Delaware.
Q: Why are some people opposing central sewage in Milford Borough?
A: The four concerns which dominate discussions are: cost to property owners, environment, expansion to residential areas in the Borough and overdevelopment of the route 6/209 corridor.
- Cost to property owners: this cost is dependent on the ratio of grants to loans for the project. This consideration must and will be addressed before the construction is approved and initiated. The 537 Study determines engineering viability and the project costs that must be funded. The current draft 537 plan for the Borough only includes connections for those properties immediately adjacent to the route of the main lines. This includes only 9 single family residences; the rest are multi-family, mixed use or commercial properties. The construction costs will need to be funded by a combination of grants (which are essentially funded donations by state, federal, and/or private entities) and loans. Obviously, the more funding which is in grants, means less cost to property owners?
The following table reflects different grant funding rates for the Borough. There are no Milford Township properties connected to the system in these calculations. The line running through the township is a pass-through only with no costs to township property owners or the township itself.
The Milford Water Authority will be administering the system which is not a taxing authority. The billing will be based on actual water usage. These numbers are based on a project cost of $6,100,000. The table below shows percentage of debt in grants, percentage in loans, the yearly total loan costs including interest (40 year loan at a 1.875 interest rate), and the monthly cost for one EDU unit (200 gallons daily use) which encompasses 75% of the properties. The other 25% of the properties will pay a multiple of this number based on their actual usage. This monthly cost represents the total of both debt service and the monthly operating fee to Westfall Authority ($25.00). Based on average income in the Borough, and federal affordability indexes, the Borough is committed to only proceed when grants make this affordable to property owners.
|Percentage of cost in grants
|Percentage of cost in loans
|Total annual debt service loan cost
|Monthly cost for one EDU unit (incl. 75% of properties in commercial district).
The one-time costs for the property owners have no tapping fees. The required grinder for the property owner is included in the project cost. The costs to the property owner would include electrical connection, trenching for hookup, and filling in the abandoned cesspool/sewer systems. The average estimated costs for all three are in the $2,000 to $2,500 range. The proposed engineering solution eliminates the need for any interior plumbing modifications. The Borough’s intent is to get separate available grants to assist properly owners in these one-time costs. The grinder chosen has an average time for service of 12 to 17 years and this involves a repair and /or part replacement averaging $600.00 to $900.00. A rebuild of the pump unit after fifteen to twenty years in today’s dollar will be about $800.00. The service records for cities with these units installed, show operation and service costs of the grinder pump units to be less than $35.00 per year (over the life of the unit).
- Environmental Concerns: as stated previously the Westfall Treatment Plant is highly regulated by a federal inter-state agency staffed by scientists and engineers providing daily oversight and testing for these treatment facilities. The Plant employs a 3 phase process utilizing green technologies such as aeration, UV light and Aerobic processes to remove contaminants from the waste water before discharge to the river. The Delaware River Basin Commission’s website and the 537 plan detail the discharge quality of the Westfall Treatment Plant. The commission publishes charts and reviews each plant’s discharges against the exceptional water standard it enforces for the Delaware between Matamoras and Milford.
- Expansion to the residential areas: This proposed 537 plan for Milford Borough is for the commercial district only. The main conveyance lines will run along Gooseberry and Blackberry alleys parallel to Broad St. in order to facilitate property connections. The lines will also run East and West on Harford St. As mentioned before, the decision on mandatory hookups for single family residences along this route in the commercial district will depend on the funding studies in the next phase. This 537 Plan repeatedly states that the area covered in this study (the properties directly adjacent to the conveyance line) cannot be changed or expanded without submitting a new or updated 537 plan. The State DEP and Delaware River Basin Commission are only looking at approving central sewage for the streets and buildings identified on the route as stated in this plan. The cost and funding is based only on the immediate hookups. The argument that the route will be expanded to cover the cost is incorrect. Adding another residential street (Ann, High, etc.), will increase the project cost by approximately $2,000,000 per street plus the cost of a new 537 Study and additional grant funding, raising the cost per property owner rather than reducing it. There is no economic advantage in expanding the footprint of this 537 plan.
- Overdevelopment of the route 6/209 corridor:
- Development is controlled by zoning. Moving current discharges from Milford Borough and Matamoras Borough on lot systems and the Delaware Valley School Plant and the Milford Senior Care Plant to the Westfall facility is actually limiting the ability for future overdevelopment by absorbing Plant capacity. Currently there are plans for a development in Milford Township including condominiums and retail units with its own on-lot system for wastewater. There are other large developments in progress throughout the county using community on-lot systems. Development can only be managed by zoning. Zoning ordinances are the only effective way to protect the character of an area.
- With its limited available space, there is not the same concern with overdevelopment in the Borough. The Borough’s concern is the long-term viability of its current high density in the commercial district. The Borough shares concern with Milford Township over the future growth and development in the Township as stated in the 2006 Comprehensive Plan. Professional Planners are needed to address these concerns through zoning ordinances to define the laws which permit growth in accordance with the character of the Township. However, to sacrifice the Borough’s economic future in a futile attempt to stop Township over-development is a counter-productive measure.
- Any developer or group of developers, in Milford Township could fund (either privately or through grants) a connection to the Westfall Treatment system at the Milford Township border. The route 6/209 road is a state owned road and a developer would just need a state permit to install their own conveyance pipe into the shoulder of the road. Stopping central sewage for Milford Borough does not stop a developer from installing their own central sewage connection.to the Westfall Plant. Only effective zoning ordinances stops overdevelopment. Stopping central sewage for Milford Borough does not stop overdevelopment in the Township. The challenge for Milford Township and for all of our communities is to pass effective zoning that embodies vision for proper development. In January 2020 Milford Borough offered to work with the Township on appropriate development criteria along the route 6/209 development zone.
Q: Has the Borough Council already made up their mind(s) to implement central sewage in the commercial district?
A: No. In 2019 the Milford Borough Council voted to engage in a study to develop a 537 plan with the purpose of connecting its commercial district to the Westfall Sewage Treatment Facility at the Westfall/Milford Township line. The plan contains technical/engineering evaluations and options, the costs to construct and maintain, and the environmental implications of implementing this plan. The Borough Council is fully aware of the need to make this affordable to Borough property owners along the route. This will require a large percentage of the funding in grants. As stated in the 537 Plan, the decision to actually implement central sewage for the Borough Commercial District will depend on adequate funding. If sufficient funding is not available to make it affordable for property owners, central sewage will not proceed.
Q: What has the Borough committed to at this point?
A: In February 2019 the Borough Council voted to enter into an inter-municipal agreement to study and develop a 537 plan.
- This is a legal document.
- The Borough received grant money for this study, if the study is not completed the Borough is obligated to return its share of the grant money.
- The 537 plan task list was filed with the DEP meaning the Borough has committed to the DEP that it will complete the plan.
- Once the plan is approved, there is no further obligation in this agreement for the Borough.
- Any further work would require new inter-municipal agreements.
Borough Property Owners
Q: What does central sewage do for property values?
A: Central sewage increases property values.
Q: Will all Borough property owners have to pay for central sewage?
A: No. Only the properties connected to the system will have a cost.
Q: Will all Borough property owners have to pay a tax for central sewage?
A: No. Only the properties connected to the system will have a cost.
Q: Can property owners be mandated to connect to the system?
A: The 537 plan limits the hookups to the immediately adjacent properties along the proposed route i.e. Gooseberry Ally, Blackberry Ally and along East and West Harford Street. For these properties, the decision on mandatory versus optional hookup is dependent on the amount of funding that can be secured. There is no option to connect residential areas of the Borough in this 537 plan. The identified service area in the 537 plan cannot be expanded without a new 537 planning process.
Q: What would it cost to hookup?
A: The 537 study has provided project costs for the proposed route of septic lines in the Borough commercial district. The intent of the Borough Council is to cover as much of these costs as possible through grant funding and thereby minimize any upfront and monthly costs to property owners. The current engineering design eliminates the need for any interior plumbing changes. Rumors of a $37,000 upfront cost are incorrect. Actual cost to the property owner will be dependent on the amount of additional funding that can be secured. There are no separate tapping fees or grinder costs to property owners. The current design eliminates the need for any interior plumbing changes. See table above
Q: Where is the Westfall Sewage Treatment Plant?
A: The Westfall Sewage Treatment Plant is owned by the Westfall Township Authority and is located near the Best Western at Hunt’s Landing. It presently services Westfall Township. There is sufficient capacity in the Westfall Plant for both Milford Borough and Matamoras Borough expansions. The Westfall Sewage Plant is highly regulated and monitored by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Delaware River Basin Commission. The Plant is mandated to purify its discharges to a level that maintains the river’s exceptional water quality. The Plant is tightly monitored by the DRBC.
Q: Is there a connection between these central sewage plans and the proposed development on the Santos Property?
A: No. Central sewage for Milford Borough has long been under discussion and predates any discussions concerning the proposed development of the Santos property. The developer’s present proposal to Milford Township calls for an on lot system i.e. not central sewage. Controlling land development and housing unit density is only effectively managed by zoning.
Q: If Milford Borough does not participate in the central sewage expansion, will that have an effect on the proposed development on the Santos Property?
A: No. The zoning decisions concerning the Santos Property development are made by Milford Township, not Milford Borough. The property developer’s current plans call for an on-lot system. But as stated previously, Westfall Township is definitely extending their sewage facility lines to the Milford Township border and a developer could extend its own conveyance line from this border to their property with a state permit since it lies along a state highway. Effective ordinances are the only way to guarantee that development reflects a community’s character.
The Delaware River
Q: Is a sewage treatment plant bad for the Delaware River?
A: No. Today, with the Westfall Sewage Plant in production, the section of the Delaware River along Matamoras through Milford is deemed of exceptional quality by the Delaware River Basin Commission. The Commission is responsible for insuring that the daily drinking water for 13,000,000 people which comes from the Delaware River is safe and pure. Each Sewage plant along the river is carefully monitored as well as the cumulative effect on river quality of all discharges to the river. The Westfall Plant is required to submit daily monitoring reports to the DRBC. The DEP and the DRBC are required to approve the 537 plan before extending central sewage to the Borough commercial district can begin.
Q: Is extending the Westfall sewage lines for Milford Borough Commercial District adding waste discharge to the Delaware River?
A: No. Today the wastewater from each of the Borough on-lot systems already enters the river through the watershed.
- Connecting the identified properties to the Westfall Treatment Facility does not increase the volume of river discharge; it changes the point of discharge.
- Connecting the identified properties to the Westfall Treatment Facility provides a consistent system for purifying the current waste discharge by passing it thru a state and federal regulated treatment plant. The Westfall plant is not discharging water of an inferior quality into the Delaware. The statistics for the water quality along the stretch from Matamoras to the National Park substantiate that the Westfall plant is discharging at a quality exceeding the exceptional quality levels set by the DRBC.
- Moving the discharges to the Westfall Treatment Facility will serve as a limiting effect on unwanted development since a larger percentage of the plant capacity will be utilized for existing discharges in Matamoras and Milford, narrowing its ability to satisfy new growth without upgrades.