Windber considering replacing aging sewer lines across borough

Apr. 3—WINDBER, Pa. — Across Windber, just over half of the borough's sanitary sewer lines are generations-old and deteriorating, Borough Manager Ron Allison said.

Many are likely leaking.

And when heavy rains fall, stormwater seeps into the aging clay, concrete and metal sections of line — and inundates the treatment plant, Allison added.

The borough is looking to change that, with Windber's council in the early stages of exploring projects aimed at upgrading lines in four separate neighborhoods.

The next step involves seeing what Windber can afford, he added, saying that if funding is secured, the borough would likely start tackling the work in phases.

Allison said any construction is at least 18 months to two years away, but borough officials are working to narrow down areas they could target for repairs.

The borough's EADS Group engineers have already completed a map highlighting areas where lines have — and have not — been replaced.

It also separates projects into four zones.

—Fourth, Fifth and Sixth streets, which contain 6,995 feet of mostly outdated pipe.

—Baumgardner Heights, which has 9,925 feet of mostly old pipe.

—Lower Seventh to 14th streets, where more than 6,200 feet of 19,000 feet of underground pipe has been replaced.

—Seese Run, which contains 12,560 feet of mostly original or old pipe.

Other sections of town, including the heart of the business district and west of Windber Area High School, are upgraded, the map shows.

Allison said no decisions have been made on which area or areas to target first.

Borough council is working to set up a meeting later this spring with the Department of Environmental Protection, EADS and PennVEST, which provides grants and low-interest loans for infrastructure projects, to see what funding might be available, he said.

After that, applications would have to be filed for state support, he added, noting that will also take time before any decisions are made.

Stormwater upgrades needed

The borough plans to address stormwater as well, noting that as old pipes are replaced by new ones, there'll be one less place for groundwater to travel.

"It's going to need somewhere to go," he said.

Stormwater retention measures would be designed as project-specific for each neighborhood where sewer line work is planned, Allison said.

Windber Area Authority Manager Vincent Paczek said there are already times when stormwater is an issue.

The authority's Richland Township-based Ingleside Treatment Plant is permitted to treat up to 4.95 million gallons of sanitary sewer flow daily.

On an average day, the system receives far less, approximately 2 million gallons.

When heavy storms sweep in, the stormwater that finds its way into the system sometimes boosts flows to 20 million gallons per day, he added.

Windber's system has two lined ponds upstream from the plant's headworks that enables the system to receive as much as 10 million gallons per day. But when levels far exceed that and overflows occur, DEP has sent violation notices in the past, he said.

It's a scenario that has happened numerous times over the years but has not yet resulted in enforcement actions, Paczek said.

Unlike areas such as Johnstown and Southmont, Windber also isn't under any mandate to address sewer or stormwater lines, Allison said.

But the borough is trying to be proactive before the sewer system worsens, he added.

He said the borough also has not adopted any requirements compelling borough property owners from upgrading their own residential systems.

The borough hasn't shut the door entirely on the idea, he said.

He said there has been some discussion about requiring property owners to have their lines tested prior to property sales to ensure sewer laterals are up to par.

"No decision has been made," Allison said, "and I don't think any decision will be made on it this year, but it's certainly something we'll be discussing moving forward."