Debris in sewer systems cause concern

BY JOSH MROZINSKI

In Factoryville, Borough Council is requesting that people stop sending debris into the system, which provides sewer service to 290 customers.

“People continue to put debris into the sewer,” Council President Charles Wrobel said, adding that hygiene products, children’s underwear and other items have been found in the system.

The council also wants people to stop hooking their sump pumps up to the sewer line.

The borough, which is also trying to determine why the monthly cost of electricity for the plant has recently doubled to $2,000, may more sternly enforce an ordinance that regulates sewer usage, Wrobel said.

The ordinance states that it is illegal to connect sump pumps and rain gutters with the sewer system, among other things.

“We’re asking people to cooperate,” Wrobel said.

Replacing a pump can cost around $5,000 and repairing a pump, $2,500, Steve Swift, sewer plant operator said, adding that the work could increase sewer rates, depending on how often it happens.

Factoryville sewer users now pay $96 per quarter per equivalent dwelling unit.

Swift said Factoryville has no plans to increase sewer rates, but wants to upgrade its system, which would help prevent debris from burning out the pumps.

Other municipal and private sewer operators also say that additional flows from sump pumps and gutters can increase a system’s operating costs.

“The more sewage that comes in, the more we have to pump and the more electricity we have to use,” Roger Hadsall, Tunkhannock Borough Municipal Authority manager, said.

TBMA has 885 sewer connections, and the borough has an ordinance regulating sewers.

Hadsall said that at the end of 2003 combined sewer overflows, which previously sent untreated water into the streams, were eliminated. He added that quite a bit of work has been done to remove ground, rain gutter and stormwater connections.

Debris also causes problems for privately-owned sewer companies, jamming and sometimes damaging grinder pumps, adding to already increasing operating costs.

Jack Middleton, Eaton Water & Sewer Company owner, said damaged pumps do “end up costing the sewer company money.”
He added that it’s impossible to trace debris back to its owner so he tries to work with customers.

In Factoryville, authorities rely on notes placed in sewer bills to notify customers that they need to pay closer attention to what they put into the sewer system.

“If people could be responsible, that would be such a help,” Councilwoman Genevieve Evans said.