Columbia waste costs questioned
BY STEPHANIE BRADFORD, Correspondent
A business owner told Columbia Borough Council members Monday that sewer bills from his business in Mountville are half of those for a similar business in Columbia.
Given the price difference and the cost to residents of maintaining the aging Columbia wastewater treatment plant -- even after proposed renovation -- the owner of laundry businesses in both boroughs said he would have "no problem with (Lancaster Area Sewer Authority) taking over."
Two borough officials expressed new interest Monday in the question of maintaining the borough plant, which was last updated in 1972.
Mountville is served by the Lancaster Area Sewer Authority -- a service option recently rejected by the Columbia Municipal Authority, which handles the financial side of Columbia's problematic wastewater treatment plant.
Instead, the authority last month approved a proposal by Entech Engineering Inc. to renovate the aging Columbia plant at a projected cost of $12.5 million.
It rejected a proposal that abandons the old plant and builds a pumping station and sewer lines that move waste to LASA for treatment. The option was estimated to cost $9.5 million.
Ron Fritz Jr., who owns laundries in both municipalities, said he pays $8.18 per 1,000 gallons in Columbia versus $3.75 per 1,000 in Mountville.
Fritz said a LASA representative told him that alternatives -- ranging from the originally proposed sewage relocation and treatment to a complete purchase of the plant and processing -- were "all negotiable."
Mike Kyle, LASA executive director, confirmed the conversation with Fritz in a phone call Tuesday.
Kyle met with the borough "years ago" to start a discussion about the purchase and take over of the Columbia system and has "never ruled that out."
In 2008, the state imposed new environmental regulations requiring sewage treatment plants in Lancaster County to increase the removal of water-polluting nutrients from sewage.
The Columbia plant is noncompliant.
The purchase price of the system, including trucks, land, plant and customer base, would all depend on the terms of the final agreement. The issue of debt would have to be addressed as well as the possibility of Columbia being represented on the board. The assessment and negotiation would take time, Kyle said.
Norm Meiskey, Columbia Borough manager, said information about solutions to the sewage problem "requires another look … the sooner the better."
Meiskey was appointed to the municipal authority by a 5-2 vote at Monday's meeting.
Mary Wickenheiser, council vice president and vice chair of the committee on wastewater, opposed Meiskey's appointment.
The authority had recommended Vincent Wickenheiser for the vacancy.
In most cases, Mary Wickenheiser said in a phone call Tuesday a committee recommendation is followed.
Even though the process has dragged on and needs resolution, Mary Wickenheiser said there were questions that LASA needed to answer. The questions being raised "may be a good thing. Let's stop for a second and make sure."
The next meeting of the municipal authority is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. March 21.
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