Frustrations and tempers flared during Wednesday night’s Johnstown City Council meeting. Council members decided to wait to vote on a bill that could save residents thousands of dollar and prevent invasive construction work to get their sewer lines tested and repaired.
Instead, council agreed to hold a workshop to discuss what proposed Bill 18 would mean.
Due to the state-mandated sewer project in the city to reduce waste flowing into the rivers, property owners are required to pressure test and replace the sewer pipes running through their buildings, which can cost up to $10,000. If homeowners don’t comply by July 31, 2018, they’ll have to pay a $600 dollar fine every day.
Proposed Bill 18 would only require homeowners to test pipes up to the foundation of their properties and not underneath the foundation, which would save homeowners money and the work would be less invasive.
Residents and council members questioned whether Bill 18 would meet Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) requirements or fix the sewage line issue.
Johnstown Redevelopment Authority Solicitor William Barbin said the DEP doesn’t specify how the city needs to fix the problem, as long as it reduces waste flow into the rivers. Although, he did say several surrounding towns fixed the problem by replacing pipes underneath homes’ foundations.
Residents urged council to pass Bill 18 and then ask DEP if it would meet their requirements.
“To go through my whole house, I have a problem with that. They want me to spend $5, 6, 7 dollars to have this done? My house isn’t even worth that much money. So why should I get that done?” said Francis Waddell, a Johnstown resident who lives in the Prospect neighborhood.
“Maybe the DEP will let us. We’re one of the poorest cities in the state. Maybe they’ll take pity on us,” said another woman who addressed council in support of Bill 18.
If the city can’t reduce its waste flow into the rivers by the end of 2022, DEP could fine the city up to $25,000 for each violation.
Currently, less than a third of the city has started the required repair work.
City officials have asked for a three-year extension.