Information on Questions About the Brush Creek (PA) Sewage Project

CED-80-112: Published: Aug 8, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 20, 1980.

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GAO responded to a citizens group and congressional questions raised about the Brush Creek Sewer Project in Marshall Township, Pennsylvania. These questions involved the need and justification for the sewer system, the approval procedures followed by the State and Federal agencies involved, and the economic burden placed on affected residents. It also addressed the question of whether additional Federal funds would be available to offset the local share of the system's cost.

It was questionable whether the need for this sewage collection system was adequately demonstrated before the decision was made to build it. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (DER) could not provided any records to show that the system was needed when it ordered the township to apply for Federal funds to build the system. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in providing the Federal grant, relied on DER certification that the system was needed without verifying the need. Even with Federal assistance, the system's cost would mean financial hardship to the township property owners who must pay the local share of the system's cost. When all costs are considered, the charge to residents who are required to connect to the system will range from $3,000 to $20,000. Since the system has already been built, little can be done to ease the financial burden on these property owners. EPA does not know of any Federal program that will retroactively provide funds for sewage collection systems, but it has requested a waiver of Federal regulations barring Federal funding for certain portions of the sewer system that were built before EPA approval. The township improperly advertised its ordinance requiring residents to connect to the system and is now trying to reenact it. Presently, the township cannot require residents to connect to the system, and it is impossible to determine what impact the ordinance problems will have on the property owner's liability or payment methods for debts incurred for constructing the system.

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