Quick Update re: the Shit Pit

COG General Forum met this evening as scheduled.

By unit vote, the five municipalities that participate in the regional parks program voted to endorse the easement, thus clearing the way for Toll Brothers contractors to start blasting and excavating in the Harter-Thomas recharge area in the coming weeks, and to ultimately build a large sewage holding tank and high-pressure sewage pipeline about a mile from our main public water supplies.

There is a lot of information to process, research and write about in coming days as construction and operation unfold, and as the political, public health and ecological consequences come into sharper view.

Some numbers to think about, for those interested in math:

  • 1,093 x 100 gallons per day = 109,300 gallons per day sewage flow, using DEP 1997 Domestic Wastewater Manual. 109,300 gpd is greater than the 50,000 gpd trigger for public notice back in 2014, which didn’t happen.
  • 1,093 x 70 gallons per day = 76,510 gallons per day sewage flow, using an extrapolation of the UAJA per capita sewage flow factor (1 EDU = 175 gallons per day per 2.5 people per household). 76,510 gpd is greater than the 50,000 gpd trigger for public notice back in 2014, which didn’t happen.
  • 268 apartments x 175 gallons per day per EDU = 47,950 gallons per day sewage flow, using UAJA’s EDU system of 1 EDU per dwelling unit, regardless of occupancy. 47,950 gpd is less than the 50,000 gpd trigger for public notice, and it’s the calculation actually used on all currently available sewage planning documents. For 1,093 residents, this amounts to just under 44 gpd per capita.
  • According to Cory Miller of UAJA during this evening’s meeting, the DEP authorized the Centre Region in 1996, through the Act 537 Plan, to use the EDU calculations of de facto 44 gpd instead of the 1997 manual’s 100 gpd calculation method, regardless of actual populations to be served, because we’re apparently extra good at water conservation around here, and our infiltration rates (the amount of stormwater that seeps into newly-installed conveyance pipes), is so very tiny. Further research needed to confirm or refute Miller’s assertions.
  • Miller also stated a “safety factor” of four (4) has been used in this project design. Whether the appropriate safety factor is the same in all settings, under all geologic and climate conditions is another question for further research.
  • In any case, the pump station, wet well and high-pressure pipeline as designed for the Cottages and now government-approved by Ferguson Township (December 2015), DEP (January 2016), UAJA (August 2018) and COG General Forum (this evening) are sized for 47,950 gallons per day, with a maximum peaking load capacity of 4 x 47,950 = 191,800 gallons per day.
  • If it turns out that the actual daily load is 76,510 gallons per day (at 70 gpd per capita) then the peaking load will actually be 306,040 gallons per day, and the pump station as designed and government-approved will be undersized by 114,240 gallons per day.
  • If it turns out that the actual daily load is 109,300 gallons per day (at 100 gpd per capita) then the peaking load will actually be 437,200 gallons per day, and the pump station as designed will be undersized by 245,400 gallons per day.

Feel free to check my math. (I’ll check it tomorrow too).

Bailiwick News – October 26, 2018

Public Comment sent to COG General Forum today, ahead of meeting Monday, Oct. 29:

First, I would like to thank the State College Borough Council for the “No” unit vote cast at the Sept. 24, 2018 COG General Forum meeting.

That vote gave concerned citizens the time to find and fit together the last few procedural puzzle pieces, compiled in the attached document – 10.26.18 Exhibits to COG (PDF, 59 pp., 29 MB; replaces prior exhibit package posted 10.24.18)

I’m working on a fuller Bailiwick News narrative explaining the history, but due to the complexity of the issues, it will likely not be finished until Monday, Oct. 29 at the earliest.

To give legislators more time to consider the information, I’m forwarding a collection of documents today, related to the sewage flow figures used in permitting documents to date, the relationship of those figures to DEP regulations regarding capacity calculations, and the relationship of those calculations to state laws regarding false statements made to and relied upon by public servants in approving or denying development applications.

The document collection includes text notes on each exhibit, to assist readers in navigating the procedural history.

In sum, PennTerra engineer John Sepp, working on behalf of Toll Brothers, has since 2014 under-reported projected sewage flows from the Cottages and Whitehall Road Regional Park developments to numerous public authorities, including Ferguson Township, UAJA, DEP and the general public, using 47,950 gallons per day for the combined developments when he should have used at least 110,350 gallons per day. Each of the government entities relied upon the incorrect numbers to approve various plans, permits and legal agreements.

If Sepp had provided accurate sewage flow calculations to Ferguson Township, and subsequently complied with the resulting DEP public notice requirement, he or Ferguson Township would have published, in the Centre Daily Times, in November or December 2014 — at least 30 days before the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors had on its agenda to review the Sewage Planning Module for the first time on January 19, 2015 — the following information:

  1. Name of Project – The Cottages at State College and Whitehall Road Regional Park
  2. Type of development – Multifamily residential, 268 units, to house 1,093 people, plus regional active sports park.
  3. Location – Intersection of Blue Course Drive and Whitehall Road.
  4. Acreage under development and number of equivalent dwelling units – 143.7 acres under development: 43.7 acres for housing, 100 acres for regional park, and 631 EDU (625 for Cottages, 6 for park).
  5. Type of sewage disposal proposed – Sewage holding tank, pump station and high-pressure force main pipelines to UAJA system.
  6. Reason why publication was necessary – At least 110,350 gallons per day new sewage flow will enter the UAJA conveyance and treatment system if these projects are built.
  7. A 30-day comment period will run from date of publication [to a date prior to Ferguson Township supervisors’ first review of the application.]
  8. The Complete Sewage Facilities Planning Module application package may be reviewed by the public during business hours at the Ferguson Township Municipal Building, 3147 Research Drive.
  9. Public comments will be accepted at Ferguson Township Municipal Building, 3147 Research Drive., and will be forwarded to the Department of Environmental Protection, along with municipal responses to all comments received.

That concise, summarized project information was not published by Sepp or Ferguson Township, in November or December 2014, or at any time before or since, depriving the public of an opportunity to make timely public comments and to have those comments inform Ferguson Township, DEP and UAJA decision-making.

Given the falsification of the sewage flow numbers, the avoidance of timely, concise public notification, and the linking of the Whitehall Road Regional Park development to the Cottages housing development through the 2008 Penn State subdivision plan (Exhibit B), I urge General Forum legislators, and especially State College Borough Council members, to vote to deny the easement request currently before you, and by that action, return both the Cottages and the WRRP plans to the drawing board to create more legally-compliant, ecologically-sound projects in this sensitive public water supply area.

I further urge General Forum members to formally release Toll Brothers from the 2008 obligation to provide sewer and other infrastructure to the park, so that public officials can proceed independently, without having decisions about publicly-funded projects ethically compromised by entanglement with private profit motives.

Please do not hesitate to contact me for additional information or complete copies of the documents from which these exhibits have been excerpted.

Thank you for your public service.

/s/ Katherine Watt, Editor and Publisher, Bailiwick News

Bailiwick News – July 15, 2018

Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition July 9, 2018 Memorandum to Centre Region Parks and Recreation Authority Board regarding Whitehall Road Regional Park Design Considerations – 7.15.18 Bailiwick News (PDF)

Editor’s Note:

The State College Borough Water Authority will be reconsidering Toll Brothers’ request for an easement permitting construction of a sewage conveyance pipeline across deed-restricted conservation land owned by SCBWA, at the water authority’s meeting Thursday July 19 at 4 p.m. at 1201 West Branch Road. For background, please read May 1, May 7 and May 21, 2018 Bailiwick News reporting. See also: Attorney Jordan Yeager letter to SCBWA re: proposed easement, legal implications of covenant on SCBWA land – 5.3.18 Yeager Letter to SCBWA


On July 19, the State College Borough Water Authority Board denied Toll Brothers request for an easement which, if granted, would have allowed the developer to run a high-pressure sewage pipeline across SCBWA land purchased in 2008 for water conservation, with deed restrictions memorializing that purpose and running with the land.

The vote was 4-1, with Hoffnar, Burgos, Brennan and Grottini voting to deny the easement, Petersen voting to grant the easement, Kern not voting and not abstaining, and Enscore absent.

It was a remarkable result, and the discussion was riveting, focused on the water board’s ethical obligations to protect public water. The discussion also included the revelation that Toll Brothers attorneys threatened to file suit in federal court if the water board used its discretion as landowner to deny the easement.