New wastewater treatment facility unveiled in Oxford
● By Steven Hoffman
There were plenty of smiles at the Oct. 9 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new wastewater treatment plant as the Oxford Area Sewer Authority reached yet another milestone in the effort to meet the area’s infrastructure needs for decades to come.
The new mechanical wastewater treatment plant, combined with an expanded wastewater storage lagoon and larger spray fields, now gives the Oxford area a system that will be able to handle up to 1,250,000 gallons per day—a 66 percent increase in capacity.
“We have been very deliberate with our design choices, securing of funding, and timing of these upgrades to benefit the community and the environment,” said Ed Lennex, the executive director of the Oxford Area Sewer Authority. “Seeing it come to fruition is exciting, and we hope the community and environmental leaders see the improvements as a success.”
Percy Reynolds, the chairman of the Oxford Area Sewer Authority, recalled how board members interviewed Lennex for the executive director position at a time when a moratorium on new sewer connections was in place, stalling both commercial and residential development in the region. The Oxford Area Sewer Authority also needed to update its Act 537 Plan. Working with Lancaster, Pa.-based engineering consultant RETTEW, Lennex guided the sewer authority through the process of developing plan.
The Oxford Area Sewer Authority received approval for the Act 537 Plan, which included an outline of the proposed expansions to the wastewater system, in July of 2011.
In 2012, the sewer authority broke ground on the first phase of the expansion, which was to create a larger storage area for treated wastewater. The new storage lagoon can hold 39.4 million gallons. This will help with the storage of treated water through the winter months until it can be sprayed on local agricultural fields. The sewer authority also added 63 acres of spray area to its existing spray disposal, preserving and enhancing the agricultural areas of the community by recharging the groundwater table. These improvements and increased storage capacity will allow the sewer authority to serve 3,278 users in East Nottingham, West Nottingham, Lower Oxford Township, and Oxford Borough, as well as future commercial industrial, or residential users in the Oxford area.
The total costs for the various projects amounts to about $32 million, which includes refinancing existing debt, purchasing land for the new spray fields, engineering costs, construction costs, and other related expenses.
The Oxford Area Sewer Authority, which was originally formed by local elected officials in 1992 to acquire, construct, improve, maintain, and operate sewage facilities in the Oxford area, received a $5 million grant through Pennsylvania’s H2OPA grant program. Most of the rest of the necessary funding, approximately $27 million, was secured with a low-interest loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service Program.
Lennex said that the Oxford Area Sewer Authority has an agreement to repay the loan, which was finally closed in June, over the next 40 years. The required agreements are in place with each of the member municipalities to back the loan in the unlikely event that the sewer authority would be unable to pay the debt service payments in a given year.
Thomas P. Williams, the Pennsylvania State Director from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, explained that the funding for the project comes through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“It really does a lot for the community,” Williams explained of the project. “It’s an economic generator.”
Reynolds credited Lennex for guiding the Oxford Area Sewer Authority through the entire decade-long process.
“He has worked diligently to make this happen,” Reynolds said.
Lennex said that the new system is fully operational. The former lagoon still needs to be converted to a storage area. The Oxford Area Sewer Authority is saving a considerable amount of money by cleaning up the former lagoon on their own, rather than paying for this work to be done.
“We’re estimating that it will take about a year for that,” Lennex explained.
The current average daily usage for the system is about 525,000 gallons per day. When everything is complete, the system will have a capacity of about 1,250,000 gallons per day.
As a result of the upgrades, some developers have already been able to break ground on residential and commercial projects.
Lennex, who is involved in the Route 1 Corridor initiative that is aimed at promoting the Route 1 corridor for future commercial or industrial development, said that the Oxford area now has the capacity to accommodate future growth.
“We sit in a prime area for commercial and industrial growth,” Lennex said. “The potential is great and this is what was needed to be put in place to reach that potential.”
Williams said that the community should see numerous benefits from the project in the future.
“This project is not only important for the Oxford area, but the region as a whole benefits because it is helping to eliminate the flow of nutrients into our streams and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay,” Williams said.