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Letter To The Editor: Here's How To Fix Sewer Problem

Havertown resident Steve DiSipio offers an alternative solution to the proposed sewer tank.

Dear Haverford Commissioners,

My name is Steve DiSipio and I am a resident of the first ward.  As you know, I have been an outspoken voice fighting against the approval of the proposed sewage tank by RHM Sewer authority in our township. 

After over three years of testimony we have established some facts.  We know that the problem with sanitary sewer overflows (SSO's) is not isolated to the Haverford, Marple and Radnor section of the system.  It is a fact that when we have a severe weather event and the sewer flows begin to back up and spill out of the system it first begins in Darby Township which is the lowest point in the sewer line. It then has to begin spilling out in Colwyn, Darby Borough, Glenolden, Collingdale, Clifton Heights, Aldan, Upper Darby and finally Springfield before we get the first spillage out of our section of the system at Merry Place in Havertown.  

The RHM Sewer Authority has proposed this overflow tank to stop the problem from going further up the line into Marple and Radnor. We will then "own" the problem in Havertown, thus saving Marple and Radnor from having to deal with it. This temporary solution, however, does nothing about the sewage spilling out of the manholes in the nine municipalities below us, which I have just listed and as the problem gets worse it will continue to be our problem.  

I believe the people from RHM, the Board of Commissioners, and the residents all agree on one thing.  The only real solution to the problem is to install a parallel interceptor line next to the old line thus increasing the capacity of the system and alleviating the SSO problem. We have been told by RHM that it would be too hard to get everyone together for this real solution, which is what actually needs to be done, instead of this band-aid approach.

If installing a parallel interceptor line is the true solution to the SSO problem, here is what I was going to suggest:  Let's use some common sense.  Instead of spending millions of dollars on a temporary tank which won't actually solve the SSO problem, why don't we use that money to install a parallel interceptor line just in the area we are responsible for which is Haverford, Marple and Radnor. 

We would then be absolved of all responsibility for the problem since our section of the system would be correct. We could set the example for the rest of the municipalities involved. If after that, we have any SSO's in our section we could sue the lower municipalities for not fixing their sections thus sending their problem upstream to us (which is what is already happening now).  

We would then be protected from any fines from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and it would force the other municipalities to be responsible for their sections of the system and maybe then the problem would actually get solved.  It would be a win/win situation.

As I said before, that is what I was going to suggest.  That was before I spent hours reading through the transcripts of the zoning board hearings.  I would strongly urge each one of the commissioners to go take a look at the transcript from the Zoning Board hearing dated November 5th, 2009. 

On page 70 of the testimony, Fred Williams from the RHM Sewer Authority reveals a fact that I think was overlooked by everyone.  Mr. Williams testified that back in the late 1970's RHM did exactly what I have suggested.  They installed a parallel interceptor line in our section of the system.  There are actually two lines in our section.  We have already made our section of the system correct. 

The problem is that below us it is only a single line the rest of the way down to Darby Township. This is outrageous that we have fixed our section and no one else has. Their lack of capacity downstream is bringing the problem to us and now they want us to build a tank in our township? 

I hope you, as commissioners, will defend our township from taking ownership of their problem. Our neighborhood should not be sacrificed when we have already done what is right to fix our section. 

I am also very suspicious that there is some influence coming from Marple and Radnor townships to get this tank put in our neighborhood in order to keep the problem from continuing to move further up the line into their townships. 

Haverford Township only contributes 14% of the sewage into the system and we are located in the middle of the system. I urge you to vote no to any and all sewage tank proposals in Haverford Township by RHM. Do not throw us under the bus for the townships above and below us.

Sincerely,

Steven DiSipio 

Patti Wilson April 03, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Another reason for the problem in Havertown may be Newtown Township's allowing homeowners to connect to the RHM system without seeking approval from RHM. At last night's Municipal Authority meeting, the Board voted to approve a discharge permit to the RHM system for a home that had already connected. Not clear that the Municipal Authority every notified or sought permission from RHM to add this capacity to RHM. So, one reason for the overflow may be due to Newtown Township's flows into RHM.

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