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Flood Authority Chairman Not Happy With Sanitary Authority Plan

December 19, 2018

PLAINS TWP. — A planned pollution-control project connected to a stormwater fee recently imposed on Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority customers has caused discord between the sanitary authority and the county flood protection authority.

The dispute centers on the sanitary authority’s plans to modify a Toby Creek detention basin in Pringle as part of its plan to meet a pollution-reduction mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency for bodies of water in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, including the Susquehanna River.

The detention basin is part of the flood control system along the river in Luzerne County, which is managed by the county flood protection authority.

That authority’s chairman, Kevin O’Brien, said at Tuesday’s authority meeting he is not ready to partner with the sanitary authority on the project, designed to make the detention basin more absorbent.

“We have a lot of questions about this project,” O’Brien said. “The way this was done was just not right. It got to the point we had to say something ... to separate ourselves from this situation.”

It is important to make clear to the 14,000 property owners who pay a levee protection fee that the flood protection authority has nothing to do with the stormwater fee, O’Brien said.

He took issue with the sanitary authority’s description of the flood protection authority as a “partner” in the project, and noted the sanitary authority has not received a needed approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Toby Creek basin modification.

Consultants for the sanitary authority promised to obtain that approval when they presented the project in April 2017, O’Brien said.

“Some people didn’t do their homework,” he said.

O’Brien said he is not opposed to the Toby Creek basin project in principle, and wants to work with the sanitary authority on future projects that benefit both authorities and their rate-payers. But the sanitary authority did not communicate its plans clearly in this case, he said.

Sanitary authority Executive Director James Tomaine, reached by phone Tuesday, acknowledged the Toby Creek basin work requires regulatory approvals before it can proceed.

“That is not something that happens overnight,” Tomaine said. “That’s something that has to be developed.”

Tomaine said the sanitary authority is well aware that work cannot start until the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers approve the project.

If the Toby Creek basin modification plan fails to gain needed approvals, the sanitary authority will pursue other stream bank restoration options to meet the pollution-control mandate, Tomaine said.

He said he is not sure why O’Brien is upset with how the project is proceeding.

“We had an agreement and understanding of what we were going to do,” Tomaine said. “We are moving forward.”

Contact the writer:

emark@citizensvoice.com

570-821-2117

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