New Sewage System Proposed For Old Flanders Area
By Cheryl Conway
Township officials are revisiting a proposed plan to replace old septic tanks and cesspools with sanitary sewer service to homes in the historical area of Flanders.
An informational meeting for homeowners that would be affected is scheduled to take place at the Feb. 19 Mt. Olive Township Council meeting. Township Administrator Sean Canning has been updating the study, speaking with an engineer, and obtaining pertinent information so issues can be addressed.
While cost can be significant to homeowners involved, officials say that updating the old waste systems will improve property values and provide more usable land space to these properties.
“Sewers, where possible, are preferential to skeptics from health and environmental protection perspectives,” says Mayor Rob Greenbaum. “They also increase property values. As septic systems fail, the cost to replace them can approach 35 to 40k.”
Sewering the Old Flanders area is a concept that the town looked at in 2008. The Old Flanders area covers 109 homes that are on Main Street to Route 206, on streets such as Park Place and Railroad Ave., says Canning. Many of these homes are more than 200 years old, with above ground septic systems or cesspools.
After surveying the homeowners at that time, however, too many negative responses came back with the notion that the residents did not want to move forward. Some of the concerns included the high expense of replacing old systems; undersized properties with little room to accommodate septic systems; and attaining approvals to build on highlands preservation area.
In November 2012, a few residents contacted Greenbaum, Canning and council-members with an inquiry to revisit the proposal. At the Mt. Olive Council meeting in December, council members requested Canning to relook at the logistics.
Canning was planning on contacting residents to inform them of the informational work-session meeting scheduled for Feb. 19 to review the fact sheet. The next step is a survey to affected homeowners.
In the 2008 study, the cost to provide sanitary sewer systems to these homes came to $3.82 million, a large assessment that many residents opposed to getting installed on them at that time.
“Costs have risen since then so in today’s dollars it is likely to be higher,” says Canning. Under that proposal, the average homeowner would pay almost $50,000 bonded over 10 to 15 years, says Canning.
“Assessments per home may run as high as $50,000 or even higher depending upon valuation of the home and length of assessment,” he says. “There is the chance that the assessment can be broken up into 15 or 20 years which would reduce the monthly cost but also attach to the home as a long term assessment.
“There is long-term bonding over 10, 15 to 20 years which would be $300 to $350 per month which would be more desirous,” he says.
The cost is so high because of the “large logistics,” says Canning, such as building a pump station, waterway issues, building under a railroad and obtaining a waiver to build on highlands.
One of the challenges is the sewer capacity at the treatment station. “From past studies the Flanders sewer treatment plant has capacity but that has to be verified,” says Canning.
There is also an issue with pumping. “The nature of the terrain and piping will require traversing a waterway as well as train tracks,” says Canning. “A pumping station will have to be put in on private property with an easement to the township allowed.”
Out of the 109 homes, 33 are within the highlands preservation area “which normally would prohibit the installation of sanitary sewer systems, that may still be the case,” says Canning.
Another concern is the number of properties that are undersized. Some yards that have cesspools “may be too small to put in septic. Cesspool to septic may burn up the backyard,” says Canning. In the long run, the 15 homes that do have cesspools could save a “$35,000 bill just to install a septic tank” on their own when their cesspools fail.
Some homeowners have above ground septic systems “which takes up the whole backyard,” says Canning. “If they didn’t have septic, they would have the whole backyard for recreational use.”
Homes that switch to sewer would not only have more space but would have more value in their homes, says Canning.
They would also save money in the long run. With old septic tanks they risk “failure or pump outs,” he says. Switching to sewer “would help them out economically.”
Careful review of the pros and cons of this proposal is planned before anything is approved.
“Those positive aspects have to be weighed against the, in this case, approximate 50k assessment that all of the homeowners in that area would be forced to undertake,” says Greenbaum. “Although that burden would be spread over many years, it is difficult to make homeowners incur that expense where the indication for installation is not required for reasons other then the desire of some affected properties.
“That is why the township in this instance wants to know the pulse of the community before pursuing the concept further.”
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