This website is dedicated to sharing information about Delmont (PA) Borough's failing sewage system, which is discharging raw, untreated human waste and other harmful contaminants onto private property and into Westmoreland County's primary municipal water source.
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There are three main factors contributing to the failure of Delmont Borough’s sewage system:
- storm-water runoff;
- inflow/infiltration; and
- the force main itself, which is made of ductile iron and experiencing excessive pitting and corrosion due to the moist and acidic nature of the surrounding clay soil.
To understand these factors more clearly, what follows is a brief description of the sewage system, which was installed in 1984:
By force of gravity, sewage is carried from Delmont Borough’s sewers downhill through an 8” PVC pipe to a pumping station located in Salem Township. From there it is pumped under pressure through the iron force main (which runs parallel to the PVC gravity line and lies in the same ditch) back up over the hill and is then carried by gravity in the opposite direction to its ultimate treatment destination, the Franklin Township Municipal Sanitary Authority (FTMSA) in Murrysville. Delmont Borough owns this sewage system and is legally responsible for inspection, maintenance and repairs, up to and including replacement of key components and/or significant sections of the system, as warranted.
The failing sewage lines (“sewage lines” refers to both the gravity feed and the force main) were installed close to a tributary of Beaver Run Creek, and they follow the path of the tributary to where it enters Beaver Run Creek and then along Beaver Run Creek to the Borough’s Pump Station. Due to a lack of adequate water-retention systems in Delmont Borough, this tributary experiences excessive storm-water run-off during heavy rain storms or extended periods of rain. This typically slow and meandering stream quickly becomes a raging torrent which aggressively erodes the stream-banks at every bend. The result has been a significant shifting of the stream-bed itself, exposing and crossing over the sewage lines in multiple locations, compromising the integrity of both lines.
Simply put, inflow/infiltration involves fluids flowing into the sewage system that should not normally do so – i.e. rain water. The gravity feed, which is severely undersized for the amount of inflow it receives, fills up very quickly during a rain storm. Combine this with the fact that there is a volume restriction mandated by FTMSA as to how much sewage is permitted to be pumped through the force main from the Pump Station to FTMSA within a given period of time, and the result is a backup of sewage in the gravity feed. With all of the sewage forcing its way into the line from higher elevations, the stacked manholes, located toward the end of the gravity side of the system in the lower elevations, cannot hold back the pressure and thus they begin to spew sewage through the manhole covers and the seams of the concrete stacks out onto the ground and into Beaver Run Creek and the above-mentioned tributary, literally for hours at a time.
The clay soil surrounding the force main is highly acidic by nature. This soil combined with the iron composition and age of the pipe adversely impacts the integrity of the entire force main. Over the past three years there have been three known instances of a breach in the force main, all discovered by the property owners – one in June of 2014, one in late summer of 2016 (repaired in February of 2017) and an additional break repaired in early March of 2017 – resulting in raw human waste finding its way to the surface, creating large cesspools that flow directly into Beaver Run Creek. It is unknown how many other leaks exist in the line that have not yet found their way to the surface or, worse yet, that are seeping sewage undetected directly into the stream where it crosses over the line.
Bear in mind that this raw sewage is being discharged directly into Beaver Run Creek, the main flow source into the Beaver Run Reservoir – Westmoreland County’s primary municipal water source.
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The entire purpose of a sewage system is to safely contain and transport all raw sewage to the treatment facility. Delmont Borough’s sewage is escaping the system with regularity, finding its way onto private property, into the habitats of fish, birds and other wildlife, and into the community’s drinking water. This is an egregious environmental hazard.
The issues addressed here have been on-going for over two decades. The owners and representatives of the private property onto which Delmont Borough’s raw sewage is being discharged have attended numerous Delmont Borough council meetings over many years in an effort to keep these matters before the Borough. There has been little, if any, actual planning or consideration given to finding a permanent solution; emergency repairs are made on a “fix as fail” basis. Requests for a full pressure test on the entire force main have fallen on deaf ears. The DEP and the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (MAWC) have been made aware of these issues. WPXI Channel 11, in the spring of 2015, reported on the issue with a feature spot that included video footage of raw sewage spewing from the stacked manholes on the subject property. Despite these efforts, Delmont Borough has made no discernable progress on this matter, and the DEP has taken a decidedly “hands off” approach to enforcing the laws governing such discharges of raw sewage.
It is hoped that the power of social media will truly put these issues into the public realm and that a wider audience will encourage the Borough to finally take necessary action.
We ask you, please, to review the photos and videos and other material contained here. We encourage you to get the word out to as many folks as possible:
- Those who drink (or cook with, or bathe in, or launder with) Westmoreland County’s municipal water;
- Those who have sincere concerns about the environmental consequences of frequent and sustained discharges of raw sewage and about the standard of living of this community;
- And those who respect the rule of law and have strong ethical stances regarding what they are willing to allow or overlook.
We encourage your inquiries, and we especially appreciate phone calls and emails to the various elected officials, governmental agencies, and municipal authorities associated with this issue.