THE MAYOR'S REPORT: Greencastle's sewer system

Ben Thomas Jr., Greencastle mayor

So how does it work? The sewer system that is. More on that in just a minute. Wow ... another breezy Sunday afternoon. No side porch sittin’ yet, however, it’s just around the corner. So join me in the family room with some Sunday afternoon baseball on the television set. Plenty of baseball at the Jerome R. King Playground this season that’s already begun! Grab your bag chairs and put them in your vehicle. Plenty of bleachers at the baseball/softball complex as well. Get out and enjoy some local sports including high school spring sports. 

While you’re out, take a walk around Greencastle as the salute to our veterans banners adorn our streets. A special thank you to our veterans’ organizations and the G-A Chamber of Commerce for your efforts.

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.

This Friday, April 30, is Arbor Day. This is a great time of year to plant a tree. Contact the borough office as some trees have been made available for planting by citizens courtesy of the Shade Tree Commission. Arbor Day was founded in 1872.

Congratulations to the G-A Education Foundation for their April 21 groundbreaking for the Kaley Field concessions, ticket sales and restrooms building that is now under construction directly behind the high school. It’s wonderful how local businesses and individuals are financially supporting this project with local contractors and sub-contractors utilized for the facility’s construction. The money will stay right here in our community for recirculation.

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One vital service that’s been in Greencastle since its big controversy was a sewer system installed in 1958 costing $965,000. Could you imagine Greencastle without it? Outhouses, primitive septic tanks and cesspools were in the backyards. Remember, most of the housing developments had not been constructed.

In the early 1960s sewer was extended to bring in Corning Glass (now Corelle Brands) and to Shady Grove to expand Grove Manufacturing (Manitowoc) until Antrim Township built systems for these areas. Grove Manufacturing had quite a presence in the borough back then at various industrial sites. Sharon Baumbaugh wrote in the April 6 History’s Echoes edition regarding the diversity of products produced in the period. Why in Greencastle? Sites were available; water, sewer, natural gas and electricity were centralized.

William E. Sacra and Associates was the original design and sewer engineer for Greencastle until the late 1980s when he went home to Alabama. I remember Bill’s southern accented voice walking into the borough office around 1988 and announced he was moving on (after 30 years). Ancient sewer systems were trenches running above ground through communities. The Romans were quite the engineers. Ancient societies started producing clay pipes flowing gravity waste water to surface water systems or offer primitive treatment and even recycling. 

In the 1950s clay pipe was widely used. Locally known as terracotta pipe that was installed in Greencastle. The 63-year-old pipes are challenging in that they are susceptible to ground water infiltration known as I & I (inflow and infiltration) and tree roots that love the nourishment with the ability to enter into the clay joints. That is why Mr. Rehab annually visits the system for pipe maintenance and rehabilitation. The current project is just shy of $69,000 and is an investment to reduce this I & I which reduces the costs of operations. 

The sewage treatment plant is located along Grant Shook Road and has received several upgrades since 1958. It is a type of extended aeration treatment which utilizes the Modified Ludzack-Ettinger (MLE) process. This helps reduce the amount of total nitrogen leaving the plant through a process known as denitrification. The amount of total phosphorous in the plant effluent (outflow to the Conococheague Creek) is reduced through chemical precipitation with a clear outflow of water. Solid waste is nutrient rich and is applied for agriculture use. In 2020 the system’s average flow was around 340,000 gallons per day for treatment. There are four pumping (or lift) stations where pipes hydraulically flow downgrade to a low point in the borough, then into a pumping (or lift) station where pumps provide just enough pressure to move waste water to a higher elevation and then back into gravity flow piping. The South Carlisle Street pump station is currently undergoing an upgrade near Route 11. This station has taken on additional flows with more residential development.

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Such sophisticated treatment plants typically require upgrades every 20 years (more or less) as the equipment operates 24 hours a day. Lab work is performed at the plant by borough employees while additional lab work is sent to chemists for certification. Many, many reports must be submitted to the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection which issues the licenses for the plants and its operators. 

So how is Mr. Rehab assigned in town? Here is information from Operations Chief Kevin Hunsberger. The employees keep a close inventory on the underground lines and select the manholes, sewer mains and/or laterals to inspect for one or more of the following reasons: If an upgrade of the street is on the horizon, if the line has had a history of blockages, if underground utility work has occurred recently, or in an effort to identify sources of inflow and or infiltration. From the inspection reports employees are able to identify which lines need further attention. When prudent, trenchless technology is utilized and the entire main is relined from one manhole to the next, or maybe only portions of the main need rehabilitated, so only sections of the main are relined. When conditions warrant entire sections of the main or lateral are dug up and replaced.

To operate this important environmental control system, personnel are on hand a portion of seven days per week and holidays and can monitor operations via remote technology. There are two full-time and two part-time employees who maintain this vital service with support from the borough’s public works and administration employees. Thanks so much Kevin, Jon, Leann, and Skye for your expertise. We are blessed by their dedication and operations behind the scenes.