English Wants Sewer Upgrade Money
Published August 09,
2006 06:15 pm - With Sharon’s embattled wastewater treatment plant
serving as a backdrop, U.S. Rep. Phil English Wednesday touted his
support for a bill that would establish a clean water trust fund
that might someday help pay for upgrades to the facility.
By Jeff Greenburg
Herald Political Writer
With Sharon’s embattled wastewater treatment plant serving as a
backdrop, U.S. Rep. Phil English Wednesday touted his support for a
bill that would establish a clean water trust fund that might
someday help pay for upgrades to the facility.
The $7.5 billion annual fund that would be created by the Clean
Water Trust Act would be dedicated to clean water infrastructure
programs. Among the beneficiaries, perhaps, might be Sharon’s
wastewater plant, which needs more than $30 million in mandated
“I’m here in Sharon because Sharon is facing a challenge which is
emblematic of the issue,” English said.
He believes there needs to be a more federal investment in sanitary
sewer systems, particularly to upgrade older systems, so communities
like Sharon can meet the needs of the environment and their
“If the federal government does not act to establish a dedicated
funding method to provide for these much-needed improvements, the
American public will have to suffer the consequences for
generations,” English said.
Sharon recently borrowed $2 million to pay for engineering services
on the plant for renovations that were ordered by the state
Department of Environmental Protection.
The plan initially called for a $23 million expansion and
renovation. Additional renovations on the syphon chamber have pushed
the costs to nearly $32 million. Construction is expected to begin
early next year, and DEP said the plant must be operational by
In an effort to avoid the burden of those costs, Sharon officials
are considering selling the plant to Aqua America Inc.
Due to minimal investment, the federal Environmental Protection
Agency predicted that the clean water funding gap will be between
$300 billion and $500 billion over the next two decades. English
noted there’s $8 billion in current unmet needs in Pennsylvania
Acknowledging that $7.5 billion a year for the next five years would
be a drop in the bucket, he said it nonetheless would be a way to
open the funding door even further in the future.
During that five-year stretch, the fund would provide $38 billion in
loans and grants to communities to deal with a growing backlog of
English said the bill has bipartisan support, but is uncertain if,
or when, it might gain the necessary support for passage.
“I think realistically we have a good shot of being able to vote it
through this year,” English said. “... There’s almost a universal
recognition that this issue has to go forward.”
The Clean Water Act was signed into law in 1965 to restore and
maintain the integrity of America’s water infrastructure, but
current funding fails to address today’s needs, English said.
Sharon Councilwoman Jennifer Barborak said she’s concerned about the
quality of the water in the Shenango River declining due to an
increase in raw sewage being dumped into it because of the poor
quality of the treatment plant.