Centre to pursue CDBG funds for sewage treatment

Grant for $1 million is largest county has ever applied for

BELLEFONTE — The Centre County Board of Commissioners has authorized Potter Township to apply for the biggest competitive grant the county has ever applied for.

During their Tuesday, Sept. 26 meeting, the commissioners unanimously approved the township moving forward with the application to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for $1 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to help with a project to resolve wastewater issues in the village of Potters Mills. The goal is to lower the cost to residents, said Linda Sterling, CDBG project coordinator for SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG).

The grant application is due Friday, Sept. 29, and a response is anticipated by the end of the year. If the application is approved, Sterling said the county will sign a contract with SEDA-COG in amount of $74,600 to administer the grant on county’s behalf, with administrative fees taken out of the grant total.

In the county’s application for 2016 CDBG funds, $30,000 was set aside for assistance to help homeowners in Potter Township afford the cost to connect to the wastewater system, according to Matt Milliron, senior planner for the county planning and development office. The project, which would create a public sewer system to alleviate water contamination, is ready to begin and go out to bid.

Milliron said that applying for CDBG funds was not an option that had been seriously considered for the project until recently, as there had been potential for an effect on other project funding the township may have received. Once the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or PENNVEST, made a funding offer to help the township with the project, Milliron had discussions with a local PENNVEST representative and DCED, and it became clear that it was important to put an application in for DCED funding.

The township has been working on plans for the wastewater project for seven years, according to Potter Township Supervisor Dick Decker. There have been a lot of failing systems in the village, along with a high water table, which makes it easy to contaminate the water with on-lot sewage systems.

Most of the lots are very small and it is impossible to put additional systems in, Decker added. Potter Run has high levels of contamination, and after testing of wells, well contamination has been found.

“We’ve looked at various options to correct the problem,” Decker said. “We finally ended up with what is called a step system, where we put septic tanks on-lot and pump the effluent to a treatment plant near Potter Run Park, where we will treat it and then discharge it to Sinking Creek.”

Decker said that the system seems to be a very cost-effective way to deal with sewage treatment in a small community of 53 residences.

The project has received a lot of support in the community.

Sterling said that a public hearing regarding the project was held recently and 25 residents vocalized their support. In addition, eight letters of support have been received. The township has also received a letter of support from the office of state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte.

“We’ve had residents outside the service area voice support because of concerns about water contamination and the fact that this is a project that is really important to the community,” Sterling added.

Three residents from Potters Mills attended the Tuesday morning meeting to support the project and the potential CDBG funding for it.

“I’m just so happy that they’re trying to do this work, because we’ve had troubles for years with bad sewage,” said resident Anna Confer.

Potters Mills resident Julia Franklin said there has been a major problem with surface water in the area.

“It’s been an ongoing thing for the 30 years that I’ve been there, so any help is appreciated,” Franklin said.

Another resident, Sarah Martin, said the sewage problems have been a financial burden to the area.

“My family and I have already spent our hard-earned money to improve our septic system, but there are many there, in Potters Mills, who don’t have the opportunity or the land,” she said.