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Welcome to our New Director's Corner!

 

In a continued effort to provide you with information regarding the Sewer & Water Conversion Project, you will now be able to submit questions for review through our website. Our mission is to keep members informed of why the project is necessary and what you can expect in coming months. We have already added many of the most commonly asked questions to our forum. Please take a moment to review them, you may find your question may have already been answered!

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Content Appeared in March 2015 Hideabout Article

 

Is RS&W’s project necessary?

ABSOLUTELY. Our current aging water and sewer systems are failing and must be replaced. As noted in the project chronology above, the project as defined in the Master Plan is NOT AN OPTION. It is required by the PADEP.

 

What options were considered to solve the problems?

Continuing to repair segments of water and sewer piping as they failed (as we had in the past) was also not an option. We have neither the manpower nor the resources to “keep up” with line breaks and leaks as they occur because our infrastructure is simply too old to do this successfully.

In addition to considering “trenchless technologies” for refurbishing existing sewers in place (see more below), the Master Plan covered two broad options for replacing the existing sewer infrastructure:

 

• Gravity System: Replace the existing gravity sewers and manholes “in kind”. This means that new sewers and manholes would be installed in the same locations and at the same depths as the existing sewers and manholes.
• Low-Pressure System: Replace the existing gravity sewers and manholes with a modern “low pressure sewer system”.

The Master Plan recommended a pressure sewer system because it was a proven and reliable solution that was considerably less expensive than replacing the existing gravity system “in kind”. Mostly due to the size and depth of the existing lines.

 

How much more would it have cost us for a GRAVITY sewer system?

RS&W’s consultant, BCM Engineers, estimated the total cost of replacing gravity sewers “in kind” throughout the Hideout to be approximately $25.5 million more than changing to a low-pressure sewer system. We simply could not afford (nor would our funding agencies have financed!) such a large difference in costs.

New low-pressure sewers can be installed at shallower depths because they are pressurized. Replacing our gravity sewers would have required much deeper excavations and therefore much higher costs. With gravity sewers, we would also have had to replace or upgrade all 29 of the wastewater pumping stations in the community. Using low-pressure sewers eliminates these pumping stations entirely.

When the gravity sewers were initially installed here in the early 1970s, we did not have the thousands of homes and miles of road paving that we have now. While all utility replacement is disruptive and costly, the difference between the very deep trenches needed to replace our gravity sewers now and the much shallower trenches needed for low-pressure sewers is very significant.

 

Were special techniques for repairing (“re-lining”) our existing sewers considered?

Yes. Our engineers prepared a separate special report on this very issue.

Several Members have asked if some form of “trenchless technology” might be employed to refurbish the existing gravity system more economically than providing new low-pressure sewers. A February 2009 article published in LJWorld.com that described a low-cost sewer-relining project in Lawrence, Kansas, apparently prompted these questions.

The following trenchless technologies are widely available and proven for selected sewer repair applications:

• Cast In Place Pipe (CIPP) … employed in the 2009 Lawrence,
• Kansas Project
• Fold and Form Pipe
• Pipe Lining
• Pipe Bursting

Trenchless Technology was NOT recommended for use in the Hideout. BCM Engineers, our Master Plan Consultant, contacted the vendors and evaluated the costs, advantages, and disadvantages of each technology thoroughly as a potential alternative to low-pressure sewers. BCM concluded: “While Trenchless Technologies for pipe repair are available and are proven to be cost effective and practical in some situations, it is clear that the sanitary sewer system in the Hideout is not a good candidate”. When all cost components of trenchless technologies are considered for our Hideout application, BCM demonstrated that “there is no saving to be gained by using trenchless technology”. CIPP, the least expensive and simplest type of trenchless technology, is not suitable for “Truss Pipe”, which is the material used for the vast majority of existing sewers in the Hideout.

The evaluations and estimated costs of the trenchless technology options noted above are beyond the scope of this article but can certainly be made available to interested members for review.

 

Was an independent engineering review of the project conducted?

Yes. Members have expressed perfectly understandable concerns about the recommended approach and costs of the water and sewer piping replacement program. These members wanted (and deserved) an independent “second opinion”.

PENNVEST, our financing authority for Stage 1, required an independent review and evaluation of our proposed design by a licensed professional engineer when the design was 20- to 40-percent complete. This review must identify alternatives, if any, for achieving the basic functions of water and wastewater conveyance at lower cost. The review must also determine if we investigated all alternatives thoroughly and if our cost estimates for those alternatives are reasonable.

A selection committee consisting of two POA Board Members and three RS&W Board Members unanimously chose CET Engineering to perform the review following a competitive evaluation process involving over 14 potential firms.

CET’s final report concluded: “In summary, we believe RS&W and their engineer have done a thorough job in considering the alternatives and we concur with the overall approach of replacing the water distribution system and sewage collection system … Although there are some obvious disadvantages with the low pressure sewer alternative, the cost savings achieved with this alternative outweigh the advantages of replacing the existing gravity sewers in-kind. CET’s experience and research done for this review indicate that private and municipal owners of low pressure sewers are satisfied with their performance.”

 

Are the grinder pumps that RS&W is installing reliable?

Yes. Low-pressure systems have a proven track record of good functionality. Please keep in mind that individual home sewage pumps are not new, even in the Hideout. Before Stage 1 construction begin in 2013, sewage pumps have been serving more than 1200 homes in the Hideout successfully for
many years.

During the design process in 2011, RS&W staff and its consultant, BCM Engineers, thoroughly investigated the two broad types of grinder pumps used in domestic sewage applications, namely: (1) positive displacement pumps (Manufacturer: Environment One); and (2) centrifugal pumps (Manufacturers: Barnes, Myers; Liberty). After visiting and intensively interviewing municipal operators of grinder pump installations both locally and out-of-state, the team was satisfied with their findings and chose to design around centrifugal pumps rather than positive displacement pumps for operational reliability, durability, and technical reasons. Ultimately, Barnes (Crane Pumps) and Myers were named in the specifications as equivalent manufacturers, and Barnes eventually won the bid for the pump supply contract.

If properly used and maintained, grinder pumps are very reliable. The largest grinder pump / low-pressure sewer system in the country (22,714 pumps in Port St. Lucie, FL) had an annual failure rate of less than 1-percent. The 20-year “pump survivability” for this system was estimated to be 90.24-percent.
Low-pressure collection systems and grinder pumps are common throughout the country, and are particularly useful in hilly terrain such as that in the Hideout.

Here are a few examples in Pennsylvania:

• East Marlborough Twp., Kennett Square, PA
• Mountain Top Sanitary Authority, Mountain Top, PA
• Upper Providence Twp., Media, PA
• Greenfield Twp. Sewer Authority, Greenfield, PA
• Manwalamink Water & Sewer Company, Shawnee, PA

 

Are failure alarms linked to the new Stage 1 grinder pumps going off frequently in the Hideout?

No. RS&W’s staff has responded to a few alarms in the community but we found these to be caused by construction start-up errors (e.g. improperly closed valves) rather than by problems related to the grinder pumps themselves. Once these normal start-up issues were corrected, we encountered no further difficulties. To date, multiple visits to solve problems at the same location have not been necessary.

 

Is our water safe to drink?

Yes. Our drinking water is absolutely safe and consistently meets or exceeds ALL quality standards for drinking water established by our regulatory authorities: the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Since RS&W provides drinking water for public use (as opposed to a private water well, for example), we are required to meet the same stringent drinking water standards as any another other public water supplier in the state. We test our water on multiple schedules as mandated by law (daily for some parameters; quarterly and annually for others). An independent third-party accredited laboratory performs all water testing. This laboratory submits all results directly to the PADEP and to the EPA. As a point of information, RS&W’s 2015 budget for water and wastewater testing is $35,000, the same as it was in 2014.

Since 1999, RS&W has submitted every Water Quality Report by direct mail to all homeowners in the Hideout. RS&W has had zero violations and is 100-percent compliant with all PADEP and EPA drinking water requirements.

At RS&W’s November 20, 2014 Board of Directors Meeting, a member of the community presented very inflammatory and highly misleading information that he had copied from a website. This website/organization encourages/promotes bottled water services for homes and businesses. The organization lists Alhambra, Belmont Springs, Hinkley Springs, Mount Olympus, and several others as providers of bottled home delivery water on the site.

We investigated the information on this website with senior officials at both the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association (PRWA) and the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and found that it had no merit. We were advised that the owners of this business, in its efforts to sell bottled water, are skilled at misrepresenting public drinking water system information to alarm consumers into making unnecessary purchases of bottled water.

Shortly after we received this water quality report at the November Board Meeting and after investigating this website, the site become “unavailable”. It continues to be unavailable to date (February 6, 2015).

 

 

Content Appears in June 2012 Hideabout Article


General questions regarding the project:

 

Q: In what order will the work be done on the various sections of the project?

A: Five contracts will begin and proceed simultaneously in different sections of the Hideout. The particulars of the schedule have yet to be determined.

 

Q: How will homeowners be notified that work will be done in their area?

A: Before work begins in a given section, the affected homeowners will be called. Customers who already have pumps and are interested in replacing them will be contacted ahead of the construction in their area in order to set up an appointment. Please make sure that RS&W has an up-to-date phone number so that we can reach you!

 

Q: How will tenants or renters be notified about the project?

A: It is the responsibility of the homeowner to notify any tenants, renters, or guests. RS&W will work to make sure that homeowners are notified of work schedules and provided with information that they must then pass on to whoever will be present in the home.

 

Q: Does a homeowner or representative need to be present during the work?

A: A homeowner or an authorized representative must be present during any work inside the home, and also before water service can be turned back on at the street once the home is connected to the new water main.

For Stage 1 homeowners who currently DO NOT have a sewage pump:

 

Q: Why does the homeowner have to provide electricity to power the new pump station?

A: The electricity to the new pump stations must be metered, so the pump stations cannot be connected "directly" to the electric lines at a utility pole, and the utility would not put in substations just to power the pumps. The cost of the electricity to run the pump should be only a few dollars per month, even for a full-time occupied home.

 

Q: Why can't a single new pump station service multiple homes?

A: The issue of liability for damage to a pump station caused by inappropriate material in the wastewater would be difficult to resolve if multiple homes were connected to it. Likewise, the electricity costs could not be divided fairly when homes produced varying amounts of wastewater.

 

Q: Will the new pump station have a check valve to prevent sewage from flowing back from the sewer main?

A: Yes, two check valves will be present to prevent backflow from the sewer main.

 


For Stage 1 homeowners who currently DO have a sewage pump:

Q: Will I still need to keep the pump in my home if a new pump station is installed outside?

A: Yes, the pump within the home must remain in service, since the wastewater still must be pumped up and out of the home and into the new pump station outside. To avoid the need to operate two pumps, we offer the option of replacing your existing pump (where possible) with one to be provided and installed by RS&W at no cost to the homeowner.

 

Q: Can my existing pump be used with the new low-pressure sewer system?

A: Unlikely, since the new low-pressure sewer system requires particular design specifications in order for a pump to be compatible.

 

Q: What are the specifications and warranty for the replacement pump?

A: The specializations are not yet finalized and are subject to the results of the bidding process. Roamingwood has visited several facilities and reviewed a number of different types of pump, all of which could work for us.  Durability is our top concern, and the replacement pump will have a warranty.

 

Q: Will the tank my current pump is in be replaced along with the pump?

A: No, the original tank will remain in place.

 

Q: What will happen to my original sewage pump?

A: The homeowner can elect to keep the original pump if desired.

 

 

 

Content Appears in May 2011 Hideabout


Q: How are questions from the Hideout Forums and other sources addressed by RS&W?

RS&W: The questions and concerns raised on the forums and those that are emailed, mailed, or phoned in are compiled and presented to our Board for review at our regular monthly meetings, and the answers are then published in the monthly Hideabout newspaper and also added to our website to help inform the entire community.

Please understand that due to our limited staff, RS&W does not have the resources to respond to each individual question as it is posted. Also, some of the questions raised are involved enough that input from RS&W’s Board of Directors, staff, or Engineer is required to provide a proper answer. By compiling your questions and our answers into an article for the Hideabout, we can inform a much larger portion of the community more efficiently than by engaging in dialogues with individuals on the Forums.

 

Q: How can members of the Hideout most constructively and effectively express their questions and concerns regarding the project or other RS&W issues?

RS&W: Questions posted on the Forums will reach us, but please feel free to send them to us via email or regular mail as well. We do prefer that you call us during our office hours for information or to arrange an appointment. We encourage you to contact us directly or attend a board meeting or workshop. The Board is always open to everyone’s concerns and questions, and your input would be most appreciated.

 

Q: Will RS&W have a second public meeting regarding the project, and if so, when and where will that meeting take place?

RS&W: As described above, the Board of Directors has scheduled additional public meeting dates to better make ourselves available to the Hideout membership. More than likely we will add more dates as we progress.

 

Q: How is RS&W working with the Hideout POA to best address the needs and concerns of the community?

RS&W: Since the very beginning of the planning of this project, RS&W has worked closely with the Hideout POA. The POA has been most supportive of our efforts and quite helpful in our planning for the common good of the whole community. Together, we plan on addressing road restoration, culvert replacement, gas line investigation, and staging coordination.

 

Q: What is the South Wayne County Water and Sewer Authority (SWCWSA)? What does it mean that RS&W is an “agent” of SWCWSA?

RS&W: The Roamingwood Sewer and Water Association is the agent and operator for the South Wayne County Water and Sewer Authority. RS&W is a private, not-for-profit association; SWCWSA is a Municipal Authority. SWCWSA owns the assets and debt, and RS&W operates and runs the systems. What RS&W and SWCWSA have in common is that they both exist to serve those portions of Lake and Salem Township that comprise what is the private, gated residential development known as The Hideout. As a private association, RS&W is not eligible for PENNVEST low interest loans or for Department of Agriculture funding. SWCWSA as a municipal entity is, in fact, eligible those loans and funding.

 

Q: When did the current RS&W management become aware of the overall deterioration of the systems they inherited, and when was the Hideout POA Board informed of the state of the water and sewer infrastructure?

RS&W: Over the past several years, through leak detection studies, flow measurement studies, as well as hundreds of hours of closed-circuit television inspection from inside the sewer mains and laterals, we determined the scope of the serious infrastructure deficiencies that we are now presented with. Reviewing the studies, inspection results, and repair history has clearly shown that the water and sewer systems are failing at a high and accelerating rate, and that the problems are widespread rather than being concentrated in just a few areas. We and our engineering staff have been investigating the scope and impact of those deficiencies for the past 18 months, and in November, 2010 we developed a Master Plan to address them. The plan was then shared with the Hideout POA Board.

 

Q: Why are the water and sewer systems in the Hideout failing after “only” 40 years?

RS&W: Many factors will affect the lifetime of water and sewer pipes, including the care taken during installation and the bedding and backfilling around the pipes. Unfortunately, shoddy work done initially is the likely cause of some of the problems we see today. Even a very small crack can allow roots to penetrate a sewer pipe and lead to serious damage over time. Likewise, a pinhole leak in a water pipe will eventually expand into a significant break.

 

Q: Can those who designed, installed, or approved the original system be held financially liable for its failure?

RS&W: According to our lawyer, we would have no case, especially after nearly 40 years. Typical bonding only lasts for five years, and guarantees are often for only ten years.

 

Q: Are other communities experiencing the same sort of problems with systems of a similar age?

RS&W: Yes, we understand that many communities are in similar situations with their aging infrastructure. Some are being forced into addressing those deficiencies by regulatory agencies, whereas we are taking a proactive approach.

 

Q: How will the new systems be better than the old ones, and how will RS&W make sure they are properly installed?

RS&W: Low-pressure sewers do not need to be installed as deeply as gravity sewers, and the shallower depth makes them easier to install. Quality assurance is one of the most important features in our bid documents, to help guarantee the longevity of our new systems.

 

Q: How long are the new systems expected to last?

RS&W: Most well-designed and installed water mains and sewer systems should be expected to provide about 50 years of service.

 

Q: Does the entire system really need replacement rather than just piecemeal repairs?

RS&W: Although some areas are certainly worse than others, the water loss and infiltration problems are widespread throughout the Hideout. These problems would be far easier to manage and fix if they were concentrated in fewer areas.

 

Q: Will installing new water and sewer systems affect the value of the Hideout and the homes and properties within the community?

RS&W: We believe that having new water and sewer infrastructure and freshly paved roads will add to the resale value of homes and improve the quality of life within the Hideout.

 

Q: What makes a low-pressure sewer system a better choice than gravity sewers with regards to the geography of the Hideout?

RS&W: The primary reason is cost. Per the Engineer’s Master Plan report, low-pressure sewers (with grinder pumps) will cost the Hideout $25.5 million LESS than replacing the gravity system in kind. This is mainly due to the depth of excavations needed to run gravity sewer mains through the hilly terrain of the Hideout.

 

Q: Did the 2010 work need to be done, regardless of the need for a more complete system replacement at some point in the future?

RS&W: Yes, those were the most critical areas identified at the time, and needed immediate attention. They could not wait while a more comprehensive plan was developed.

 

 

Content Appeared in March 2011 Hideabout
 


Now for the POA Board’s questions:

 

 

Q: Many of our members reside or have moved from other areas that have Political Subdivisions, Authorities, Commission, etc. that oversee utilities and approve/control rate increases and they expect that to be happening here. Please confirm RS&W can change the rates without any oversight by another group/ individual.

RS&W: Yes, RS&W can change our rates without outside oversight just as the POA can change its rates. Ultimately, we both answer to the Hideout Membership.

 

Q: Generally, the common area of the roads in the Hideout is 50 feet. In addition, each property adjoining the common area has a utility easement of 10 feet. Of the total 70-foot area, approximately 22-24 feet is asphalt paving. Will the new water and sewer pipes be designed to be placed in the 46-48 feet of non-asphalt area in an effort to minimize the cost of re-paving?

RS&W: We will make every effort to keep most new piping outside of the paved roadway whenever it is cost-effective and practical to do so. We will have a more definitive answer after we complete surveying and preliminary piping layouts in the next few months.

 

Q: It is common practice for Utility Companies to share the cost of trenching when they share a trench. In light of natural gas deposits in NEPA, will any natural gas companies be contacted in an effort to share the costs of trenching and provide an addition energy source to the members in the community?

RS&W: No. We are not in the natural gas piping business.

 

Q: The December Hideabout article indicates replacement of the existing water meters with “remote read” meters. Placing meters at the curb stop would allow quick identification of those Water Service Laterals that are leaking. If the water is turned off in the house and the meter still shows water flowing, there is a leak in the Lateral. Where will the new meters be installed?

RS&W: IF new water meters are needed, we would probably replace them at their current locations, inside or outside of the homes, to minimize costs. Recently, we tested some meters and found that they were recording flow accurately and did not need to be replaced. To achieve “remote read” capability, we are considering modifying the existing water meter transmitters (which are located outside in all cases). Modifying the transmitters would help us detect leaks on the downstream side of water meters.

 

Q: During the spring thaw conditions, the association just prohibited travel over the roads for eight weeks by vehicles of more than ten tons gross weight. Will this restriction on vehicle traffic impact the RS&W projects? In addition, will restrictions be placed on the RS&W contractors to not drive through the South Section when working in the North Section?

RS&W: Yes. Whenever limitations are placed on a contractor, his costs rise because his schedule and ability to perform work is constrained. Our ratepayers will “see” these costs in the form of higher bids and change orders.
With respect to the locations of construction activities, we anticipate executing the work under multiple contracts and expect to be working within defined areas of the North and South Sections concurrently to get the necessary work done in a timely manner. As our plans become better defined, we are more than willing to work with the POA to minimize the dual impacts of construction and costs on our Membership.

 

Q: Both Federal and State funding are being proposed for this work. Is it correct that this will require the contractors to pay Federal and State prevailing wage rates and at what additional cost to the project?

RS&W: Yes. RS&W will (and must by law) require contractors to pay the prevailing Federal and State wage rates for the proposed work. It is not possible to answer the second part of your question concerning “…at what additional cost …”. RS&W’s legal status gives us access to very attractive low-interest, long-term financing. What is the additional cost without such financing?

 

Q: The December Hideabout article indicates RS&W will “install and pay for submersible grinder pumps.” You indicated the homeowner will pay a monthly electric cost of $2.00-$3.00. That means an electric line will be run from the grinder pump to the homeowners house. Will RS&W pay for the installation of the electric line and electrical hookup also? Who pays for replacing the electrical panel if there is no spare capacity in the homeowner’s electrical panel?

RS&W: Yes, RS&W will pay for all necessary electrical work (i.e. conduit, conduit trench, wiring, and connections) to operate the grinder pumps. At this time, we anticipate installing the grinder pump’s electrical control box with a separate breaker on the exterior of each home near the existing electrical meter. Power for the pump would be tapped on the immediate “downstream” side of the home’s electric meter. We do not anticipate the need to access any electrical panel within the home.

 

Q: The December Hideabout article indicates RS&W will “install and pay for submersible grinder pumps.” Who pays for the hookup of the homeowners Sewer Service Line to the grinder pumps?

RS&W: RS&W will pay for connecting the homeowner’s sewer service lateral to the grinder pump station. However, if the homeowner’s service lateral is found to be leaking or damaged, the homeowner will be required to replace the lateral or make the necessary repairs before any connections are made. This is the homeowner’s current responsibility now.

Hybrid configurations: Based on the fact that until the entire sewer system cannot be flash cut or converted to a system that will require all lots to have a sewer pump instead of our current gravity system instantly, we will be functioning in a hybrid configuration for some time.

 

Q: Is it possible that this hybrid configuration may in fact be a permanent solution?

RS&W: No. The majority of our infrastructure is roughly the same age. Our water loss and infiltration problems occur and must be corrected throughout the Hideout. We must complete all remaining work as aggressively as funding permits.

 

Q: Could the home already on grinder pumps be left on say a gravity loop served by a central Pump (hopefully one of the new ones)? Thus eliminating the for the 30% double pump configuration.

RS&W: Under Stage 1 construction, about half of the entire Hideout (generally around the periphery) will be converted from a gravity sewer system (with central pump stations) to a low-pressure sewer system (generally without central pump stations). This conversion will include homes with gravity and others with pressure service laterals; such homes are randomly dispersed throughout the area, often next or across the street from each other. In these areas, all homes will be provided with external grinder pumps that discharge to a new low-pressure sewer system. During the interim period after Stage 1 and before Stage 2 is completed, a hybrid system will exist: the new low-pressure sewers will discharge to the existing gravity system. After Stage 2 is completed, all homes in the Hideout will be served by a low-pressure sewer system. Although a few central pump stations may be retained in the new system, there will be no “gravity loops” at this point. In the February Hideabout, we indicated that homeowners who currently pump to the sewer would “most probably” need a new outside grinder pump station to ensure compatibility with the new low-pressure collection system. However, we also said “this issue needs more investigation on a case-by-case basis.” We are investigating several options that we will discuss when we have more detail.

 

Q: Would it be cheaper/quicker to see what areas don’t have deep gravity trunk lines (say less than 8 ft.) and again create new gravity sections? This could again eliminate XX% from needing any lot pumps.

RS&W: No. The depths of our gravity sewers range from about 6 feet to more than 22 feet (see chart). These depth variations

occur randomly throughout our hilly terrain. We cannot replace sewers that are shallower than say 8 feet with gravity sewers and deeper than 8 feet with low-pressure sewers because this would require a system that would have to alternate from gravity to low-pressure, and back to gravity again. Such changes are not possible. A low-pressure sewer system can discharge into a gravity system, but not the other way around.

We should also point out that our shallower sewers are more likely to be those that are connected to existing home grinder pumps. Deeper sewers are more able to receive gravity flows from the homes.


 

 

Pumps: In the pumps for all design, will RS&W:

Q(a): Assume responsibility for replacing no compatible existing pumps?

RS&W: No. Home pumps are the responsibility of the homeowner. If these pumps currently convey wastewater successfully to the gravity sewer, they will also be capable of discharging to a grinder pump wet well outside of the home. Compatibility is not an issue under this so-called “double pump” scenario. Nevertheless, several variations on this scenario may be possible. We will discuss these variations with you in the future if they appear at all feasible after further investigation.

 

Q(b): If the answer to a above is yes, will the demark for repair responsibility for the lot owner be the input side of the first grinder pump, thus transfer all repair and maintenance of the sewer lines etc. to RS&W?

RS&W: As it stands now, RS&W’s responsibility will begin at the new (second) grinder pump station. The homeowner’s responsibility will remain essentially the same as it is now.

 

Q(c): Will all pumps be alarmed? Will RS&W monitor them from a central location? How and when will the lot owner be notified of any pump or system failure so that they know to stop using their facilities to prevent an in house backup?

RS&W: Yes, all grinder pump stations will include alarms, probably both sound and light. In all likelihood, the alarms will be part of the pump’s electrical control box and mounted on the exterior of the home in a location visible from the street. The alarm will alert both homeowner and neighbors of a problem. If this happens, RS&W should be alerted and will respond.

 

Q(d): Will all lots be fitted with backflow check valves on their sewer lines?

RS&W: Yes. We will probably employ two check valves to prevent backflow from the low-pressure collection system. The first check valve would be located on the discharge line of the grinder pump near the street. The second would be located on the pump discharge inside the pump station itself. Check valves close if flow is reversed in the line.

 

Q(e): Where/who will provide the electric circuit for the individual lot pumps?

RS&W: RS&W will provide and pay for all electrical work. See response above.

 

Q(f): If it is to be the lot owner; what happens if their electric panel is at capacity (same question raised above)?

RS&W: It is not the lot owner. See response above.

 

Q(g): If a trench is necessary for power etc., will new water and sewer lines be installed at this time?

RS&W: No. Any buried electrical conduits will be routed in a separate trench. When a conduit trench is needed on a homeowner’s property, it is very unlikely that water or sewer pipe trenches will also be needed at the same location.

 

Q: Roads: It was stated the main cause for the poor condition of our water and sewer was the improper installation of the original lines. They were not backfilled correctly etc. What standards and safeguards will be used to ensure the correct quality job will be performed for both the placement of the lines as well as the repair to our roads?

RS&W: The “standards and safeguards” that we will employ for the pipelines are: (1) we will use modern, high quality PVC and/or Cement-Lined Ductile Iron Pipe with appropriate pressure joints; (2) our Engineer will design and specify State-approved materials and compaction requirements for pipe bedding, pipe zone, and pipe backfill; (3) our Engineer will enforce these standards through daily field inspection and testing of the work; and (4) our Engineer will conduct final field tests when work is completed to verify the integrity of the piping systems with respect to pressure and leakage. None of these safeguards was employed when our pipes were installed in the early 1970s. With respect to roads and culverts, RS&W will leave these assets in the same or better condition as they were before construction. That said, the need to replace water and sewer piping presents a unique opportunity to repave roads and to replace damaged and/or undersized culverts under the same construction contract. Since roads and culverts are the POA’s responsibility, RS&W hopes to work with the POA to accomplish this goal.

 

Q: Funding: The projected funding of 40 million dollars represents the replacement of 40% of the sewer and water system, what is the projected cost for the complete system replacement? (100 million?) What would the funding strategy and projected members costs be the pay for and operate the new system?

RS&W: Our Engineer estimated the program costs for Stage 1 Improvements to be $40.4 million. These improvements represent slightly over half (52 %) of the entire piping replacement program. The estimated total cost for the complete program (Stage 1 + Stage 2) is $78.0 million. These cost estimates will be refined at least twice later this year.

When the Stage 1 work is completed in 2014, we expect to see a very substantial reduction in both water losses and infiltration. When this happens, our operational costs will decrease and we should be able to dedicate a much larger portion of our capital reserve toward completing all remaining work. The detailed financing and schedule needed to complete the entire job (Stage 2) can be determined only after actual Stage 1 costs and leakage reduction impacts are better known.

 

 

Content Appeared in February 2011 Hideabout

 


How much more would it cost us for a new gravity sewer system?

Our consultant, BCM Engineers, estimated the total cost of replacing gravity sewers “in kind” (meaning at their current locations and depths) throughout the Hideout to be about $25.5 million more than changing to a Low-Pressure Sewer System. We simply cannot justify (nor can we finance) such a large difference in costs. New low-pressure sewers can be installed at shallower depths because they are pressurized. Replacing our gravity sewers “in kind” would require much deeper excavations and therefore much higher costs. With gravity sewers, we would also have to replace or upgrade all of the 29 wastewater pump stations in the community. When the gravity sewers were initially installed here in the early 1970s, we did not have the thousands of homes and miles of road paving that we have now. While all utility replacement is disruptive and costly, the deep trenches needed to install gravity sewers and the heavy equipment involved would have a much greater impact on the community than the much shallower trenches needed for a Low-Pressure Sewer System.

 

What exactly is a Low-Pressure Sewer System?

This sketch illustrates how such a system might look for homes with gravity and pumped sewer service laterals: Home wastewater would be diverted to a new buried grinder pump station located on each lot. The grinder pump station would discharge to a new pressurized collection system. The grinder pump stations might be located anywhere along the general route of the home service lateral … near the street or near the homes themselves. There are pros and cons to each option. Final locations and perhaps other siting options will be determined during the design phase, after surveying is completed.

 

Will ALL homes in the Hideout need a grinder pump?

Ultimately, yes. The Low-Pressure Sewer System will eventually replace our existing gravity sewers. Home wastewater must be pumped into this new collection system because it operates under pressure.


Will homeowners who currently pump to the sewer need a new outside grinder pump station?

Most probably yes, but this issue needs more investigation on a case-by-case basis. To function properly, these home pumps must be compatible with the pressure conditions that will exist in the new collection system. At this stage, we expect that the discharge of the home pumps will be rerouted to the new grinder pump station rather than directly to the new Low-Pressure Sewer System.


Who will maintain the grinder pumps?

RS&W must maintain the grinder pumps for the 20-year duration of the low-interest loan provided by PENNVEST. RS&W will also

provide the grinder pumps, and pay for their installation.

 

How much electricity will the grinder pump use?

The exact power consumption will vary with the volume of wastewater produced. It should not be more than a few dollars per month for a single family in full-time residence, and even less when the home is only occupied part-time.

 

Who will pay for the power used by the grinder pump?

The answer to this question depends on how the electricity to power the grinder pumps is best provided and metered. Our Engineer is evaluating several alternatives and will provide recommendations during the design process.

 

What happens if there is a power outage?

If power fails, the grinder pump will not work. The home resident must then reduce water use to a minimum until power returns. Water used after power fails will accumulate in the grinder pump’s (or home pump’s) holding tank until it is full. The amount of storage available depends on the level in the holding tank immediately before the power outage.

 

Won’t the grinder pumps freeze, particularly when homes are unoccupied during extended periods of very cold weather?

Freezing is very unlikely even if the home is unoccupied. Although located outside, the grinder pump and associated pressure piping would be fully enclosed at the bottom of a buried thick plastic holding tank, below the “frost line” for this part of the country. Nonetheless, we have and will continue to explore the freezing concern with major grinder pump system manufacturers and directly with cold-weather communities where such systems have been operating. To date, we have learned that freezing has not been a problem.

 

What will be done to prevent the backflow of sewage into my home?

The grinder pump station will be located outside, between the home and the low-pressure sewer piping.
The first line of defense against sewage backflow is the check valve (“backflow preventer” valve) on the discharge side of the grinder pump, which closes if flow is reversed in the line. The second line of defense is the pump station itself. In the rare event that the check valve(s) leak back sewage from the collection system, the pump station holding tank will fill and the pump will switch on automatically and remain pumping to push the sewage back into the collection piping. This will also set off an alarm to alert both homeowner and neighbors of a problem. If this happens, RS&W should be alerted and we will respond.

 

Can the grinder pumps clog?

Any pump can clog with debris or grease, including so-called “non-clog” grinder pumps as well as the large wastewater pumps in

RS&W’s network of 29 pump stations throughout the Hideout. Sewers and manholes in a gravity sewer system can (and do) clog also. Although it will be RS&W’s responsibility to maintain the proposed grinder pumps on the lot of each home, it will be the Homeowner’s responsibility to remain mindful that our sewers are designed to convey sewage, not household trash, cloth, grease, paint, coffee grounds, egg shells, and the like. Household garbage disposals are not permitted in the Hideout for this reason. If homeowners adhere to these simple guidelines, we would expect very few, if any, clogging problems.

 

Who will pay for damage to my driveway or landscaping when these grinder pumps are installed on my lot?

RS&W’s intention is to restore a homeowner’s property to a condition equal to its condition before construction on the property begins. RS&W will pay for these necessary restoration costs, including paving and basic landscaping.

 

What communities have low-pressure sewers and grinder pumps now?

Low-pressure collection systems and grinder pumps are common throughout the country, and are particularly useful in hilly terrain.

 

Here are a few examples in Pennsylvania:

 

• East Marlborough Twp. – Kennett Square, PA
• Mountain Top Sanitary Authority – Mountain Top, PA
• Upper Providence Twp. – Media, PA
• Greenfield Twp. Sewer Authority – Greenfield, PA
• Manwalamink Water & Sewer Co. – Shawnee, PA

 

How will your Engineer identify the most reliable grinder pump system for the project?

Working directly with multiple reputable manufacturers of quality equipment during design to compare features of similar equipment is an essential part of the engineering process. Manufacturers provide very necessary and documented information concerning their equipment’s features, performance, reliability, and end users. As the design process moves forward, RS&W and its Engineer are also contacting similar communities that already use grinder pumps for low-pressure sewer systems to solicit their feedback about performance, reliability, and durability.

 

Will there be an independent review of the proposed work?

Yes. PENNVEST, our financing authority, requires an independent review and evaluation of our proposed design by a licensed professional engineer when the design is 20- to 40-percent complete. This review must identify alternatives, if any, for achieving the basic functions of water and wastewater conveyance at lower cost. The review must also determine that we investigated all alternatives thoroughly and if our cost estimates for those alternatives are reasonable.

 

Will all of the projects that RS&W completed in 2010 become obsolete when the new Master Plan changes are made?

The short answer is “no.” Last year, RS&W completed five projects that included new water mains, sewers, and two pump stations (on Lakeview Drive West). This work was necessary for environmental compliance and had to be done right away to replace seriously leaking and deteriorating segments of our infrastructure and to move critical piping away before the Roamingwood Dam improvements. All five projects were bid in 2009 and were being completed before work on the Master Plan even began. These projects were funded through awarded low-interest loans from
PENNVEST. We could not wait years for an integrated, system-wide Master Plan solution.

The Master Plan improvements do not preclude incorporating the recently installed water mains and one or both pump stations noted above, and most of the sewer lines replaced will serve us for at least three or more years. 

 

 

 

Content Appeared in December 2010 Hideabout Article

 

 

Potable Water System

The Problem: Water Piping Breaks and Water Losses

 

RS&W staff repaired over 100 water pipe breaks in 2009; that number has already been surpassed as of October 2010. In 2008, as a result of leaks from broken pipes, 54-percent (almost 91 million gallons) of potable water pumped into the water mains from our five wells never reached the home meters. In 2009, this figure reached 56-percent (about 99 million gallons). This huge quantity of potable water is leaking out of our water pipes before reaching our homes. The water is “lost” through leaks … “unaccounted for.” With such extremely large water losses, our water wells are not able to meet the peak demands of the community. In recent years, our water usage during peak summer weekends routinely depleted our reserve supplies with all available wells in use. During the busy July 4 weekend this year, we could barely keep up with water demand and our line pressures dropped below critical levels for a short time. Failure to supply “water on demand” has become a realistic threat!

 

Wastewater System

The Problem: Groundwater Infiltration into Our Sewers –
 
A huge volume of groundwater leaks into our sewer system as a result of broken and leaking sewers, house service laterals, and manholes. Fixing leaks is dominating the time of RS&W’s limited staff. Maintenance is becoming reactionary rather than proactive as a result of the excessive time spent repairing breaks. Over the past 4-5 years, we have been measuring wastewater flow rates by various means throughout our sewer system and have been televising the inside of the sewers to identify the source of the leaks. We found that the problem of infiltration water moving into cracked sewer pipes is widespread rather than concentrated in only a few areas. BCM Engineers confirmed this finding in its 2010 “Master Plan” work. This is important because fixing many small, widely distributed, cracks in the sewer system is far more difficult and expensive than repairing a smaller number of larger cracks.

In 2008, as a result of cracked and broken sewer lines and manholes, 69-percent of the flow through our sewers (about 179 million gallons) was not sewage - it was groundwater! In 2009, this figure reached 73-percent (about 217 million gallons)! The flow volume is so large that we are frequently at risk of overloading our pump stations and treatment plant, which not only poses a significant threat to the environment but also invites potentially severe fines and/or building bans by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). This infiltration problem also threatens our water supply. Excess groundwater entering our sewers is diverted throughout treatment plant, and therefore out of our watershed. This means that a very significant volume of clean infiltration water is not available for replenishing our groundwater, which is our only source of potable water.

What are the Master Plan’s Key Conclusions and Recommendations? Water System - Water Mains and Service

Lines: Given the age of most water piping in our system, fixing our water piping piecemeal is no longer viable from either a financial or manpower perspective. The increasing number and wide distribution of main breaks and service leaks throughout the Hideout precludes spot repairs (i.e. patching selected segments of piping) as a long-term solution. Our consultant strongly recommends replacing essentially all of our water mains and service lines as funding permits but as aggressively as possible. We should also upgrade the size of our water mains from 6- to 8-inch diameter to meet modern fire-fighting recommendations. In addition, we should consider changing water main pipe material from the currently predominant PVC plastic to cement-lined ductile iron (CLDI) for greater long-term strength and reliability.

Wells: The combined capacity of all five wells will not meet the potential “peak day” water demand for 4000 developed lots (“build out”) in the Hideout. The lost or “unaccounted for” water problem described above is a major reason for this lack of capacity; water pumped from our wells leaks out of our system before reaching our homes. Consequently, future consideration should be given to supplementing the available water supply, but only after the effect of the water piping replacement program can be documented to determine if, in fact, there continues to be a supply shortfall.
Water Meters: The existing individual home water meters should be replaced with a more modern and flexible “instantaneous remote read” system as funding permits. For billing purposes, RS&W staff now read all home water meters manually once each quarter. Most of these meters are approaching 25 years old. Installing modern “remote read” meters would offer advantages both to homeowners (e.g. rapid water leak detection alerts) and to RS&W (e.g. reduce operating costs and improve system management).

 

Wastewater System –

Sewers and Manholes: Given the age of most of the sewers and manholes in our system, fixing our sewer infrastructure piecemeal is no longer a viable option. The severity and wide distribution of infiltration into our sewers precludes patching selected segments of piping as a long-term solution. Our consultant strongly recommends replacing essentially all sewers and service lines on a prioritized basis as funding permits but as aggressively as possible. Ultimately, two broad options exist for replacing the existing sewer infrastructure in its entirety:

1. Replace the existing gravity sewers and manholes “in kind”. This means that the new sewers and manholes will be installed in the same locations and at the same depths as the existing sewers and manholes.

2. Replace the existing gravity sewers and manholes with a modern “pressure sewer system.” The Master Plan recommends a pressure sewer system because it is considerably less expensive than replacing the existing gravity system “in kind.” Because pressure sewers are “under pressure” (similar to water mains), they can be installed at minimum depth (about 5 feet) and track the hilly terrain of the Hideout. Gravity sewers on the other hand cannot do this and therefore must be quite deep. Greater depth means higher installation and maintenance costs. After a pressure system is fully installed, most of the 29 external pumping stations can be decommissioned because they will eliminate associated power and maintenance costs - a significant reduction in current operating expenditures.

 

Cost Estimates for Stage 1 Construction Program –

Rate increases must be correlated to anticipated construction costs. Any construction cost estimates at this stage of “master planning” (i.e. prior to detailed surveying or design work) must and will be refined as design and construction details are developed. At this point, however, we have sufficient cost information to make initial funding and rate decisions. BCM Engineers has estimated construction costs for replacing water and sewer-piping infrastructure in the highest priority areas of the Hideout, which represents about half of the planned full-replacement program.

 

These “Stage 1” Construction Cost Estimates are:

• New Water Mains: $16,917,000

• New Low-Pressure Sewer System: $23,486,000

 

Financing –

Funding for large capital projects typically comes from a number of sources. RS&W has been working closely with senior representatives of PENNVEST (Pennsylvania Agency), the Rural Utility Service (Federal USDA Agency), and RBC (investment banker), as well as our political representatives to explore options for funding this program. Grants from Federal, State, or County Agencies are the best option for obtaining money to cover a portion of the costs. However, projects need to qualify for grants, which are typically awarded on the basis of income level of affected households and the current rate structure for services being provided. We were advised by PENNVEST that grants are unlikely in our case because our current water and sewer rates are about half of what is necessary for serious grant consideration. At this time, our best option for raising the necessary funds to pay for the work appears to be a combination of low-interest loans from PENNVEST and the Rural Utility Service, with any shortfall in funding from these two sources provided in the form of a tax-exempt bond issue. Such funding sources will have different rates and payback periods. We plan to submit financing applications as soon as possible.

 

What can we expect in return for Higher Payments?

In a word, reliability. We will have a reliable central water supply that will provide “water on demand” to all of us, and we will have reliable central sewer service that will convey wastewater to our treatment plant without overloading that plant with groundwater and without depleting our valuable groundwater supply. We can also expect significantly lower energy costs (associated principally with the many pumping stations that we plan to decommission after project completion) and enhanced property values that are associated with modern centralized water and sewer services. Central water and sewer piping systems such as the ones we have in the Hideout can usually be expected to provide service for 40-50 years. We are nearing the end of that service timeline and must decide now what we want for the next 40 years.

 

What does a Pressure Sewer System Entail? –

Low-Pressure Sewer Systems have been in use since the 1970s and are now a common alternative to gravity sewer systems,

particularly in hilly terrain. Compared to gravity sewer systems, pressure sewers are much less costly to install and maintain. Under the Low-Pressure Sewer option, RS&W would install and pay for submersible grinder pumps that are mounted inside small buried “wet wells” (sumps) on the lot of every home in the Hideout. Wastewater from each home would then be diverted to the new wet well and grinder pump installation rather than directly to the sewer system. Many Hideout homes already have a similar pumped system now. Under the pressure option, grinder pumps at each home would discharge a finely ground slurry into a smaller-diameter, completely pressurized collection system. The new pressurized sewer mains would be installed at a shallow, generally constant, depth (about 5 feet) throughout the Hideout. The grinder pump wet well will provide adequate holding capacity for power outages (usually about 7.5 hours). The grinder pump is started when the depth of sewage in the wet well tank reaches a predetermined “turn-on” level, and pumping continues until the “turn off” level is reached. The pump’s running time is short and power consumption is low. For example, a typical full-time homeowner would pay no more than $2-3 per month for electrical costs; seasonal residents would pay even less. The unit is very reliable and is protected against backflow from discharge lines by an integral check valve. In summary, the principle reasons for changing from our current gravity sewer system to a low-pressure sewer system are:

• The capital and operating costs of a low-pressure sewer system are much lower than an equivalent gravity sewer system.
• As a sealed system, low-pressure sewers would virtually eliminate the huge volume of groundwater infiltrating into our current gravity sewers, thereby extending the life of our wastewater treatment plant very substantially.

 

What is the Proposed Implementation Plan and Schedule for the Work? –

Construction Sequence for Low-Pressure Sewers - To replace the entire existing gravity sewer system, the “sequence of construction” will require that the system be replaced generally from the outside periphery of the Hideout toward the center. As the new system is installed, the existing gravity system would be abandoned. Prior to completing the entire construction program, therefore, a “hybrid” sewer system (lower pressure sewers discharging to downstream gravity sewers and pumping stations) would serve the Hideout.

 

Construction Sequence for Water Mains –

The Master Plan recommends replacing the water system wherever the sewer system is being replaced. This will contain the construction activities to one area at a time, minimizing the inconvenience to our homeowners. Once both water and sewer pipes are completed in each area, the road can be re-paved and any associated culverts crossing the roads replaced.

 

Work with POA to replace culverts and upgrade roads as part of project –

RS&W’s mandate and rate structure covers water and sewer infrastructure only. The POA’s mandate and rate structure covers all other amenities in the Hideout, including maintenance and replacement of our roads and culverts when necessary. Clearly, RS&W’s proposed piping replacement program will have a very significant impact on both roads and culverts. The need to replace sewers and water mains presents a unique opportunity to replace damaged and/or undersized culverts and repave our roads under the same construction contract in a coordinated program that will eventually address the entire system: sewers; water mains; roads; culverts. RS&W hopes to work with the POA to accomplish this goal and to share project costs as equitably as possible.

 

Program Schedule –

Over the next 12 months, RS&W will focus on the many tasks necessary to prepare for construction. These tasks include surveying, engineering design, updating cost estimates, applying for permits, applying for financing, and preparing for competitive bids. If all goes well, we hope to begin construction by “breaking ground” in late 2011 or early 2012. Our goal is to complete the first half of the overall program, principally piping in the highest priority service areas generally bordering the periphery of the Hideout, by the end of 2013 or early 2014. When this initial construction program is completed, we expect to see a very substantial reduction in our water loss and sewer infiltration problems, and associated operational cost savings. We will then be ready to move ahead to complete all piping work in the remainder of the Hideout, service area by service area, as aggressively as funding permits.

 

Why Act Now? –

We have no choice from both technical and cost perspectives. Continuing on our present course of fixing segments of water and

sewer piping as they fail is NOT AN OPTION. We have neither the manpower nor the resources to “keep up” with line breaks and leaks as they occur because our infrastructure is simply too old to do this successfully. Doing nothing is tantamount to “placing our heads in the sand and hoping for the best”.

Continuing this present course of action will, sooner rather than later, have the following consequences:

  •  Water wells that cannot keep pace with peak water demand as a result of excessive water leakage out of cracked mains and service laterals.
  •  A water distribution network that cannot meet “fire flow” requirements on a consistent basis because line pressures fall below minimum levels, again caused by excessive water leakage.
  •  Surcharged, overflowing, and ultimately failing wastewater pump stations that cannot keep pace with the volume of groundwater entering them, particularly after wet weather.
  •  An overloaded wastewater treatment plant that cannot meet discharge requirements that are mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP).
  •  Risk of substantial fines, building bans, and potential lawsuits by regulatory authorities as a result of system failures.
  • Risk of falling property values associated with community problems such as those outlined above.

On the positive side, we are in a unique low interest environment now and should act to take advantage of this opportunity before the cost of money rises once again. We are convinced that delay will only cost more. Our water mains and sewers represent a very substantial investment in assets. Modern regulations governing such public systems, with which we must comply, now mandate a detailed, responsible, and proactive long-term asset management plan. The “2010 Water and Wastewater Master Plan” prepared by BCM Engineers represents such a plan. Its conclusions and recommendations, outlined above, are clear and unequivocal. We must act on these recommendations.

 

What’s Next? –

RS&W’s actions over the coming months will focus on the following:
• Complete the “2010 Water and Wastewater Master Plan.”
• Move forward as quickly as possible with more detailed planning, design, cost estimates, and financing.
• Continue to provide forthright and accurate information to you, our Membership, as it becomes available.

You need to understand why we must take these actions. Our hope is to gain your support.

A RS&W “MASTER PLAN” PUBLIC MEETING WILL BE HELD AT THE HIDEOUT MAIN LODGE ON DECEMBER 18th 2010 AT 1:00 PM.

To keep abreast of events and decisions, please check RS&W’s website (www.rswanepa.com). If you have questions or need information, please telephone (570-698-6162) or visit us at the RS&W Office.

What do you as a ratepayer want to know? We welcome your questions, comments, and ideas.

Parting Comments - As you consider the lengthy but important discussion above, please recognize that none of us wants to raise your rates (and our own). The program we are engaging in will take a number of years to complete and we will make every effort to keep disruption to a minimum. After very considerable thought and effort on the part of many people, we are firmly convinced that we must move forward if we are to fulfill our commitment to you as managers and directors of RS&W. Once again, that commitment is to act responsibly and proactively to provide consistent and reliable water and sewer service cost-effectively, and to protect our investment by maintaining our water and sewer infrastructure for the long term. We sincerely hope that you will support RS&W’s staff and board as we embark on this major program for the benefit of the Hideout.

- The Management and Directors of the Roamingwood Sewer and Water Association