People attending a meeting hosted by state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, to discuss the Chesapeake Bay cleanup wanted to know when the financial burden will ease for local communities faced with helping fund it.
Everett, a member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, could provide no easy answers.
But he made it clear he can feel their pain.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, talks to a group of citizens gathered in the Muncy High School auditorium about the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Initiative and resultant requirements which are in turn driving up local sewer fees.
Some 20 citizens turned out for the public session at Muncy High School, which included a presentation by Everett followed by a question and answer session.
Everett said some local communities are under state mandates to remedy sewage problems contributing to bay pollution.
"There's no doubt the bay is impaired," Everett said.
Some of the contaminants come from sewage discharges into streams and runoffs from agricultural operations including nutrients which find their way into the bay and lead to lower oxygen levels.
As a result, aquatic life and water quality have been harmed in the nation's largest estuary, a major commercial fishing area.
Many of the pollutants find their way to the bay by way of the Susquehanna River, along which lie many area communities.
Interesting enough, the river and most of its tributaries are cleaner than they were more than a generation ago, and progress has been made in improving water quality in the bay since the formation nearly 30 years ago of a partnership involving several states including Pennsylvania.
But when a Clean Water provision was violated in 1999, the federal Environmental Protection Agency was sued in court and in turn put pressure on the states to expedite clean up measures, Everett noted.
Communities now face deadlines that if not met could result in the EPA taking over sewage systems and setting customer rates.
"Now the deadlines are here," he said.
But some citizens noted that they are already feeling the financial squeeze.
Everett said it's his belief that the federal government should ante up some money rather than putting the onus on the backs of municipalities.
Chuck Leonard, vice chairman of the Muncy Borough Municipal Authority, noted that Muncy initiated public sewage measures many years before other communities. That, he argued, should merit the borough some financial help in remedying its sewage problems.
The borough is presently working toward building a new treatment plant with several surrounding communities, including Montgomery and Clinton Township.
Everett said it's clear that communities far from the Chesapeake Bay are being unfairly targeted in the cleanup process.
He suggested that it might perhaps be time to ease up on the cleanup process just a bit to allow the bay ecosystem to begin remedying itself.
Everett is one of 21 members serving on the Bay Commission, which includes 15 lawmakers from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
The group is charged with considering bay issues including conservation management, water quality, and managing living resources.