VILLAS- Parts of Erma, where homeowners are dependent on septic tanks, may be permitted by the state to connect to municipal sewer service in the future.
Updated sewer maps have been proposed for all 21 counties statewide to provide direction on where sewer service and potential development is appropriate, while protecting nearly 210,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands and safeguarding the state’s water quality, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Counties and municipalities across the state worked with the DEP to submit to submit either a sewer service area map or full wastewater management plans.
Lower Township Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) Executive Director Matt Ecker said there have been ongoing discussions with the county Planning Department and Lower Township Planning Official Bill Galestock over a wastewater management plan approved by DEP
Ecker said he would ask the MUA and township to pass resolutions either consenting to the plan or opposing it with an explanation of their objections.
He said areas in Erma that historically DEP would not include in a sewer service area have been included in the wastewater management plan meaning they potentially could have sanitary sewer service in the future.
“So that was a win…” said Ecker.
Erma is largely served by septic tanks. Ecker said he occasionally gets calls from residents having septic tank issues wondering if MUA will ever extend sewer lines to the area.
“This isn’t a guaranty that we will, we certainly don’t have any immediate plans but it gives us the option to consider,” he said.
Ecker told the Herald the potential sewer service area for Erma runs the corridor of Route 9 and Seashore Road from Breakwater Road. He said there may be other portions of Erma eligible for sewer service. The area of Fay and Myrtle avenues are included in the proposal.
Installing sewer lines in the area may be years in the future, driven by the number of septic systems that fail on undersized lots in Erma, said Ecker. New state septic tank regulations could prevent a homeowner from rebuilding their system on an undersized lot.
In the future, DEP may impose new regulations requiring a minimum lot size of two acres to install a septic tank, he said.
Current regulations require only a one acre lot to use a septic system.
“In order for us to sewer that area, the closest sewer lines we have are all the way at the airport,” said Ecker. “It would be a major sewer extension, we’d have to run lines down Breakwater Road and then up Seashore and cross over to Route 9.”
He said the project would be “fairly costly,” since it’s a long run of pipes to Erma without picking up many new customers to offset the debt.
Grant money is available for such projects especially if there are failing septic systems in several areas, said Ecker. Application can be made to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development and DEP Infrastructure Trust.
He said USDA looks at the demographics of an area. If it is below the state poverty level in terms of income, more grant funds and better loan interest rates are available.
Ecker said there is a similar situation on Trotter Way, Timber Lane and Briarwood Drive which use septic tanks. The state understands at some point the septic tanks will fail and that state is considering permitting sewer service in that area in the future, he said.
Ecker said Galestock was disappointed that Lower Township’s proposed industrial park was not included in the plan to allow sewer. In addition areas of Academy Road and Bottlecreek Estates were not included in sewer service areas, said Ecker.
“All of these are because of environmentally-sensitive areas,” he said.
Ecker said part of the MUA’s headquarters on Bayshore Road was not included on the map for sewer service. He said MUA had discussions with DEP before they would include the entire airport in the wastewater management plan.
Answering a question from a resident, Ecker said DEP may have concerns that zoning could be changed after sewer lines are installed.