A decade ago, Sewickley Borough Council members voted unanimously to borrow millions of dollars to repair its aging wastewater treatment plant.

At that time, Leetsdale officials invited Sewickley to pipe its wastewater to Leetsdale’s newer, much-larger facility.

Borough Council President Bob Hague, Borough Manager Kevin Flannery, and Council Member Bob Cornman visited Leetsdale, and returned to tell Council to vote for the bond to upgrade Sewickley’s plant; they told Council that Leetsdale wasn’t ready.

As the Gazette previously reported, Leetsdale’s Sewer Authority and its borough engineer dispute that. Not long after, both Edgeworth and Bell Acres began shipping their wastewater toLeetsdale. Today, residents of Edgeworth and Bell Acres pay considerably less for sewagetreatment than the residents of Sewickley, Glen Osborne, Aleppo, and Haysville.

What else did we inherit from that questionable decision?

Sewickley originally borrowed approximately $3.5 million for the repairs and upgrades; today the total debt is nearly $15 million. Some of that debt will not be retired until 2040. We also have a plant that needs about $5 million dollars more in repairs. And it smells.

The Gazette has been advised that the Sewickley treatment plant currently operates at or near its capacity. It is a combined system which results in discharges of sewage and storm water to the Ohio River during rainfall. New regulations, more strict enforcement of existing regulations, or increased flows from Aleppo growth or elsewhere in the system, would result in a future need
to expand the Sewickley plant. Add another 6-8 million of long-term debt.

This season’s Borough Council now want to join with Leetsdale, and accepted Leetsdale’s offer to pay for an engineering study and plan to comply with Pennsylvania’s “Act 537.” Council members are upbeat about this, and have reportedly said the “jointure” with Leetsdale will be underway in a year.

Unfortunately, no.

An official familiar with a meeting Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) held with Sewickley Council President Jeff Neff and Leetsdale representatives told the Gazette that DEP declared that the timeline is three years, maybe four. The Gazette has been informed but has not yet verified, that no minutes were taken at this meeting.

We do know that Sewickley and Leetsdale, months after the Council decided to pursue the jointure, have not yet come to an agreement about rates and terms of the jointure. Once they do, eight more municipalities have to review and approve Sewickley’s Act 537 plan. Following that, DEP has to approve it. Some of those approvals are not a given. Edgeworth and Bell Acres could decide they’d rather the Leetsdale plant reserve its capacity for their own needs.

In the meantime: on Sunday, August 18th, the Sewickley Community Pool – on Chadwick Street next to the sewage treatment plan – hosted a pool party for one and all. Next to the sewage treatment plant.

The history of Sewickley’s wastewater treatment facility is another example of a story that needs to be covered in depth.  See the first segment of our reporting on this issue “What’s That Smell?”.