LOCK HAVEN - After preparing for a few years, Lock Haven now will have to pay the piper for not having its new sewage treatment plant online ahead of a deadline set by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Actually, the city's residents, industries and all who feed into the treatment plant will be footing the bill.
The city imposed a 35-percent rate hike on its sewer customers at the beginning of the year, not only to help pay for a new $32 million sewage treatment plant, but to help pay for "nutrient credits" the city must purchase for going over the allowable amount of nitrogen and phosphorus the plant discharges into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed from September 2011 until the plant is online in late 2013.
City Council at its meeting last night unanimously agreed to spend $408,496 in nutrient credits to Mercuria Energy America Inc. That will go toward 110,000 pounds of nitrogen and 11,000 pounds of phosphorus credits at $3.37 per pound.
"They are the least expensive alternative," City Manager Rich Marcinkevage said, noting the city also received a proposal from Chesapeake Energy for the credits.
That charge will be paid for through the 35-percent sewer rate increase, along with "nutrient subcharges" on industrial waste dischargers, namely Avery Dennison, Croda and WSP Chemicals.
Council also unanimously passed, on first reading, the nutrient surcharges to the industrial plants based on a complex formula of how much above and beyond the allowable nitrogen and phosphorus it discharges into the system.
"They pay to us a surcharge above and beyond normal water usage," Marcinkevage said. "Once the (sewer) plant is up, it will pay for the higher operational costs for the phosphorus and nitrogen removal with equipment and manpower. Until then, they will pay for the nutrient credits."
The formula is based on their 24-month history of discharges, so "we won't hammer anybody needlessly," he said.
The money for the nutrient credits will last the city from October of this year to October 2013, and will cover the amount of excess nutrient discharges the city had from September 2011 until this September. Next October, the city will again have to pay for the excess nutrient discharges from this September until September 2013.
In a related note, council approved the submittal of a Sewage Treatment Plant NPDES renewal application to DEP, as the current permit runs out in January. In addition, council decided to notify the issuance of the new discharge permits to area industries.