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Where Does It All Go?
Clean water is critical for sustaining life and health. People often take for granted the flow of water in and out of their homes. – Where does it go after we flush the toilet or empty the sink, and how does it safely find its way back to the environment?
Wastewater from homes, businesses, industries, and institutions drains into a community’s sanitary sewer system, an underground network of pipes that leads to the wastewater treatment plant. At the plant, used water is cleaned and returned to the environment to be used over and over again. Treatment is complex and essential to the protection of our water resources. There are no holidays for wastewater treatment – in fact most plants operate 24/7 to meet clean water standards on a continuous basis.
The Act 537 Sewage Facilities Program was instituted by the Department of Environmental Protection in 1966. This program monitors sewage disposal needs in order to address current and prevent future problems with surface and groundwater contamination through proper planning, permitting and design of sewage management facilities. The Act 537 Program has a large impact on how sewage is managed in growing municipalities thus the costs involved to make revisions can be burdensome. For example, an influx of homes can inandate the soils that were being used for on-lot disposal requiring a collection system of sewer pipes to be constructed in order to carry the waste to a treatment plant. A proactive municipality will evaluate and update, if needed, their 537 plan every 5-10 years to see if it’s still meeting the needs of the community.
The Collection System
North Londonderry Township maintains four (4) pumping stations, over 700 manholes and over 36 miles of sewer pipes. All of these assets and their components need to be maintained and inspected annually to ensure proper operation. Our responsibility is the sewer main itself, the homeowner is responsible for the lateral to the main and the connection to the main.
Any matter that enters a sewer drain passes through pipes via gravity to the wastewater treatment plant. It may make a pit stop at one or more pumping stations, where it passes through a grinder for refinement and then pumped past a low spot back into the system.
Most of North Londonderry Township properties south of Route 422 and the North Hills development by Gravel Hill Cemetary, utilize the underground public sewer system.
Pollutants Cause Problems
The sanitary sewer collection system gathers used and dirty water from sinks, toilets, washing machines and bathtubs. It is imperative as homeowners, that we monitor what goes down these drains. It may be surprising to know the following items cannot only clog and backup the system, but be extremely costly to the treatment process.
Rain And Groundwater From Downspouts, Floor Drains And Sump Pumps
The Lebanon County Stormwater Ordinance restricts this infrastructure from being emptied into the public sewer collection system. The influx of water in the collection system can cause overflows or backups into someone’s house, streets or waterways.
Rainwater Entering Through A Broken Or Missing Vent Cap
Every gallon of rainwater entering the treatment plant negatively effects the process and leads to increased user costs. Help us prevent this by checking your outside sewer connection line – tends to be a white mushroom-looking vent cap, or screw-on lid on the cleanout pipe. This waterproof lid can prevent the seepage of rainwater into the sewer system if it is in good condition, securely fastened and six (6) inches above the ground. Any cracked or broken lids should be replaced.
Much like some of the other pollutants in this list, the influx of water flow can increase the cost of treatment which is then passed on to the customer and the unexpected chemicals may seep through the treatment process and into local waterways posing a health risk.
Fats, Oils And Greases Dumped Down Drains - Garbage Disposals And Detergents Do Not Break These Down
The most common culprit of a sewer clog is the build-up of hardened fats, oils, and grease normally all sourced through the kitchen sink. They are by-products of cooking that come from meat fat, lard, oil, shortening, butter, margarine, food scraps, baked goods, sauces and dairy products. As they get poured down the drain they harden and attach to solids normally found in a sewer pipe and form clumps, sticking to the sides of pipes and slowing down flow. The build-up grows until it is noticed as a sewer backup into the home or even your yard!
The best way to prevent this type of backup is to soak up any fats, oils or greases from cooking with a paper towel and throw it in the trash. If you let it sit long enough it may even harden on its own and can be disposed of later. Large quantities can be placed in a sealable container, refrigerated, then tossed. This is a great way to reuse take-out containers! Minimize using your garbage disposal to eliminate the presence of fats, oils and greases in sewer pipes. Scrape plates and place food scraps in the garbage first or use a strainer in your sink to catch the solids to be emptied in the trash. CAUTION: Garbage disposals don’t keep grease out of the sewer system and hot water and detergents that claim to dissolve grease only pass it down the line to cause problems elsewhere.
Unused Household Chemicals Or Medications
The treatment process is designed to process what you would expect to see in a sewer system. The unexpected prescense of these items could cause them to go untreated and pass into local waterways polluting our sources of drinking water and wildlife.
Discard and protect your medication from improper use by crushing and adding water to it in a plastic bag, then sealing it and tossing it in the trash. You can also mix medications with kitty litter, sawdust, or coffee grounds to make it less appealing to pets or children.
Visit our Recycling Page for proper disposal.
Look for the term “flushable” when purchasing. Sewers are designed to carry used water from sinks, toilets, showers and laundries away from a home. Flushing ‘unflushable’ items that do not break down in water – garbage, paper towels, disposable wipes, kitty litter, cigarette butts – causes blockages in pipes leading to costly backups and treatment. “Disposable” does not mean flushable. Disposable means the product is intended for single use that can be recycled or tossed with the trash. Most baby and adult wipes are not flushable because they do not disintegrate in water like toilet paper does.
New Home Building Specifications
If you plan on building a new home and the property is within 150 feet of a sanitary sewer main, sewage disposal must be connected to the collection systems. The builder or plumber doing the work can obtain a permit for connection at the Township Office. Please call before arriving so that staff can prepare the permit in advance.
Households with private well and on-lot sewage disposal systems make up most of the northern half of North Londonderry Township. With the exception of the North Hills development, this would consist of all properties north of State Route 422 / Main Street, Palmyra.
Sewage Management Program
In 2010, per DEP requirements and guidelines established by the opens in a new windowAct 537 program, the Township instituted a Sewage Management Program that establishes routine inspection and maintenance requirements for properties that have a septic system to ensure proper operation. Property owners with on-lot sewage systems are required to submit proof of pumping every three (3) years by completing and submitting a Sewage Management Report along with an administrative fee for each property. These reports will be mailed to properties upon the third year, Section I is to be signed and completed by the homeowner and Section II is to be signed and completed by the pumper/hauler. If you have misplaced or did not receive the form, please contact us prior to scheduling pumping. Systems must be pumped by a opens in a new windowregistered pumper/hauler. A list of Frequently Asked Questions and the ordinance enacting the program is provided.
On-Lot Sewage Enforcement
A permit is required for any new install, repair, replacement or modification to a system. Modifications may be warranted if there will be an increase of flow due to additional persons residing within a home, maybe additional bedrooms have been established, or expansion of a commercial, industrial, or institutional facility.
- Septic Smarts
- Water Conservation
- DOs & DONT’s
- PennVest Homeowner Septic Program
- opens in a new windowFrequently Asked Questions
Wastewater Treatment Plant
Since 1976, when the Township established public sewer service in town, we have been working together with the Borough of Palmyra to treat wastewater from residents’ homes. After a half-century of service and various changes to state and federal regulations, the Borough of Palmyra Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) could no longer meet the demand and growth of the area. Therefore, North Londonderry Township swapped responsibilities with the Borough of Palmyra and began construction on a $15 million project to improve treatment and expand capacity in April 2011. This not only provided the area with a new WWTP, but the construction of two interceptor lines redirected flow and eliminated two pump stations, saving thousands in operation and maintenance fees.
Built on about 17 acres of former Millard farm land in South Annville Township, the North Londonderry Township Wastewater Treatment Plant is currently treating 900,000 gallons of wastewater a day from residential, commercial and industrial sources. At capacity, it will handle up to 1.5 million gallons/day (MGD), which leaves room for wastewater from an additional 1,500 homes. The Borough of Palmyra pays their share of fees, based upon usage, which can amount to 43% of total plant flow. Due to its location within the community, special attention was given to keep the plant out of sight. Laid out around an existing fieldstone barn and 20 large 80-year-old sycamore trees, the treatment works are set up on a hill behind a new garage and administration building for partial concealment and limiting the amount of storm run-off that enters the treatment process.
Innovative construction features include passive solar lighting, space for the future use of solar panels on every building, the use of effluent (treated water leaving the plant) to heat and cool buildings, insulated concrete block and metal roofing that will last longer than traditional asphalt shingles. The new garage utilizes an infrared heating system and automated equipment minimizes staffing requirements. The self-regulating equipment monitors its own operating conditions and notifies staff if a parameter goes out of range as well as only running what equipment is necessary thus, saving energy.
How Does A Treatment Plant Work?
Filters remove plastic, grease and paper from sewage transported via the collection system to the plant. Sewage then flows to two 1.3 million gallon tanks, where natural bacteria digest and decompose any biosolids with the assistance of aeration – by way of a revolving arm – and water. Two smaller clarifier tanks will then separate the liquids from the solids and send the liquid to a filter building where it will be disinfected with ultraviolet light and chlorine. On average, 900,000 gallons of effluent is returned to Killinger Creek every day. But wait, what happened to the solids? They are dried and reduced down to 20% matter creating 200-250 tons of matter per year that is either spread onto farmland or transported to the county landfill. Over the winter, when it can’t be applied to farmland, there is storage space for 90 days’ worth of biosolids.
The new plant operates with four employees, all certified DEP Wastewater Operators, compared to nine utilized by the age old Borough of Palmyra plant and collection system maintenance is handled by the North Londonderry Township Highway Department. We have our own full-time DEP accredited lab that tests the successes of plant processes in treating sewage before its ultimate elimination into the surrounding environment. Annual operating cost is budgeted at $1.4 million.