If you ask Christine Weigle, executive director of the Lycoming County Water and Sewer Authority, "What's new?" make sure you have plenty of time for the answer.
When Weigle took over the authority in 2005, it provided sewage collection and treatment facilities to just a handful of municipalities and had no public water system.
Today, those services, including public water, extend from one end of the county to the other.
Growth of sewage treatment
The Montoursville Regional Sewer System, which was completed in 1998, included a sewage treatment plant with the capacity for treating 1.5 million gallons of sewage a day.
The plant provided treatment services to the borough and portions of Fairfield and Loyalsock townships. Sewer service was expanded to Muncy and Muncy Creek townships in 2004.
The authority took over Armstrong Township's sewage collection system, which conveys sewage to the Williamsport Sanitary Authority wastewater treatment plant, in 2000, and in 2001, it began the planning, design, funding and construction of Woodward Township's sewage system. It was involved in that project until the system was turned over to the township in 2006.
In 2007, it took over the operations and maintenance of DuBoistown's sewage pump station. Three years later, it took over Muncy Creek Township's collection system operations and maintenance. A portion of that system will become part of the proposed West Branch Regional Authority system, Weigle said.
The authority took ownership of the Beaver Lake community's sewer system, which is in Penn Township, at the beginning of the year; is working out the details of taking over Limestone Township's decrepit system; and has offered assistance to Franklin Township in its quest to build a sewage treatment facility near Lairdsville.
The first water system
In 2008, the authority's first public water system, the Halls Station Water System, which was designed to serve businesses in the Lycoming Mall area, went online.
The system consists of about five miles of pipeline, a well permitted to just under 900,000 gallons of water per day, and a 316,000-gallon storage tank that is just north of the Lycoming Mall interchange at Interstate 180.
That year also marked the beginning of planning to create a regional water system that would serve the county's designated growth corridor between the boroughs of Muncy and Montoursville.
The first piece of the regional water system puzzle was put in place last spring with the interconnection between the Halls Station system and the system owned by the Muncy Borough. The interconnection was designed to create an additional source of water for the Halls Station system as well as to accommodate development in and around the Muncy Industrial Park.
That expansion already has reaped dividends in the area with the creation of the Marcellus Energy Park in Muncy Township. The park, which is served by the expanded system, is home to anchor tenant Weatherford and several other companies involved in the natural gas industry.
The authority last year took ownership of a private water system that serves several residential developments along Lycoming Mall Drive in Fairfield Township. That system, the Village Water Co., is being augmented by the construction of a 200,000-gallon water storage tank at the Grey Fox Plaza that will allow the system to be expanded into the plaza and Fairfield Road-Choate Circle business corridor.
Additionally, the Lycoming Mall, as of last Monday, tied into the Hall Station system and officially became a customer of the authority, Weigle said.
Facility upgrades needed
The authority's administrative offices and sewage treatment facilities on Old Cement Road in Fairfield Township are being upgraded at a cost of about $4 million.
Facing the need to meet state and federal pollution discharge regulations associated with Chesapeake Bay cleanup initiative, the authority last year began upgrading its sewage treatment plant.
At the same time, it began planning the construction of a new administration building to take the place of the current building, which is cramped, obsolete and unable to handle the services now being provided, as well as expected future increase in services.
Treatment plant upgrades, which should be completed sometime this summer, include the installation of a new 350,000-gallon sludge holding tank, an equipment building that contains dewatering and sludge press equipment and computerized process controls, among other things.
The administration building project, which also includes a separate three-bay garage, is expected to be completed early next year.
Stretched to the limit
Weigle admitted the workload has stretched authority resources. The Limestone Township and Beaver Lake sewage systems are in poor condition and will be a challenge to fix, she said.
At least one authority member, Richard Haas of Loyalsock Township, has voiced his concerns that the authority is being stretched beyond the limits of its capabilities by the additional projects.
Weigle, however, said it is the authority's duty to assist municipalities. Water and sewer systems are highly regulated, complex and expensive to maintain. Most small municipalities do not have the resources, experience or expertise to deal with issues related to them, Weigle said.
"The water and wastewater industry has become very technical and very complex," she said. "It's difficult for (organizations) like us to deal with. How much more complicated is it for communities like Limestone Township?"
It is the goal of the authority to offer "creative solutions to our partner municipalities to meet their water and sewer needs," Weigle said.
According to Dr. Vincent Matteo, president and CEO of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, because companies want infrastructure in place where they want to locate, the lack of that infrastructure, including water and sewer, "is a deterrent to growth" in the region.
According to Matteo, water and sewer has attracted new companies and helped keep existing companies in the Williamsport area.
"The chamber is very supportive of everything the county has done in the area of public water and sewer," Matteo said. "It is an essential component of economic development and job growth."