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State College Borough Water Authority Gets $25 Million State Assist for New Treatment Facility

by on July 17, 2019 3:51 PM

State College Borough Water Authority's plans for a new water treatment facility to be located in Ferguson Township got a major boost on Wednesday with the announcement of a nearly $25 million low-interest loan from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (Pennvest).

“This low-interest loan is great news for State College,” state Rep. Scott Conklin said in a news release. “It will allow the borough to make a necessary improvement to infrastructure that’s vital to residents.”

The new facility, which is being planned along Ernest Lane at the Nixon well field site, will provide treatment for water pumped from the Nixon and Kocher well fields in western Ferguson Township. The Pennvest loan is for $24.95 million and covers all but $50,000 of the project cost. Conklin said the remaining portion will be funded by a grant. The interest rate for the first five years of the 20-year loan is 1.30%, and 1.95% after that.

The treatment plant is intended to supplement SCBWA's Woodside Drive plant by serving a growing area and to provide a redundant filtration source in the event of an outage or contamination at the main plant.

"This treatment will help to improve water quality as well as extend the life of the wells by exceeding current water quality regulations and should also meet future water quality regulations for a long time to come," SCBWA Executive Director Brian Heiser said at the July 8 Ferguson Township planning commission meeting.

After a pilot study was completed in 2016, design began in 2017 for the new facility, which will include membrane microfiltration, which is a state-of-the-art system for removal of particles and pathogens, as well as granular activated carbon to remove organic contaminants. Ultraviolet disinfection also will be used to limit the amount of chlorine needed and to provide a redundant disinfection system, Heiser said.

SCBWA recently submitted preliminary land development plans to the township, as well as a request to replot 2.974 acres of land that will be sold to the authority by neighboring property owners Gary and Carol Myers. The additional land will bring SCBWA's total acreage at the site to 18.047.

"The additional piece of land we have a sales agreement on with the Myers is in order to keep us in compliance with [township] zoning," Heiser said. "It will move our building out of the flood plain and will make a better project for us and the Myers. By moving it back it will be less visible to them as well."

Three structures currently on the site will remain because they house the wells along with controls, Heiser said. The disinfection equipment housed in one will be moved to the new filtration plant. No significant construction will take place at the site of the Kocher wells, which are pumped to the Nixon site for treatment. Some new equipment and small structures for electrical controls will be added to the Kocher site.

Heiser said the treatment plant itself won't result in increased capacity, "just better quality water." It's designed for a capacity of 3 million gallons a day with the ability to expand to 5 million without changing the building's footprint. Across the entire SCBWA system, which includes seven different well fields and the Shingletown Reservoir serving more than 75,000 people, the total average daily use is currently only about 5 million gallons per day.

In addition to limits on withdrawal set by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the Kocher wells are also limited to 20 percent of daily demand because they are in the Spruce Creek drainage basin. Heiser said those wells are rarely used. 

"I don’t believe that well field has run for about eight months now," he said. "We use it sparingly, however that may change over time. We do not anticipate that change because of this plant. We anticipate that change if there is a potential as the area grows."

Pumping the Nixon and Kocher wells also has not negatively impacted shallower private wells in western Ferguson Township, Heiser said. When SCBWA last pumped the Nixon well field for Susquehanna River Basin permitting in 2012, multiple wells were run for an extended period of time and there was no adverse impact on the monitoring wells.

Planning commission member Jeremie Thompson asked if the treatment facility could in the future accommodate adding current Rock Springs Water Company customers, who have had a number of problems with service in recent years.

"This facility will meet the needs of our current customers as well as future customers, no matter where they may be joining our system... because we’ll be able to treat the entire amount that we’re permitted for producing out of the Nixon and Kocher well fields," Heiser said. 

Heiser added that the ability to treat 3 million gallons from the Nixon and Kocher wells should be sufficient for at least 15 to 20 years, and 5 million gallons for 25 to 30 years.

Planning commission recommended approving replot of the Myers land and comments on the land development plan will be sent back to SCBWA and its planners.

The township's Board of Supervisors also authorized a conditional use hearing for the plant. The site is zoned rural agricultural, where a water treatment plant is conditional use. Supervisors referred the conditional use application to planning commission.

SCBWA's loan was one of 17 drinking water, stormwater and wastewater projects statewide to receive a total of $136 million in the latest round of state funding through Pennvest, according to a press release from Gov. Tom Wolf's office.

“The funding provided by Pennvest delivers the financial backing necessary for communities to make improvements that ensure potable drinking water, adequate wastewater treatment, and storm water management facilities improve our quality of life and strengthen our communities,” Wolf said.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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