A lot of applause can be generated with over 50 people in a room.
This was the case at the Oct. 18 Lower Providence Board of Supervisors meeting, during which a Lower Providence resident gave an impassioned and comprehensive presentation on the contentious history between the Lower Perkiomen Valley Regional Sewer Authority (LPVRSA) and residents of Lower Providence over a sewer interceptor project.
The contention revolves around the final segment of a nine-mile sewer interceptor project, specifically a stretch of line that would run along the banks of the Perkiomen Creek on the Lower Providence side.
The entire project is known as the Act 537 plan. The residents oppose the Middle Interceptor segment of the project, becuase it would follow easements from Cider Mill Bridge through 15 homes along the bank, ending at Hoy Park. Residents say this would create irreparable damage to the ecological, historical and aesthetic characteristics along the Perkiomen.
From the Other Side of the Creek
According to Cathy Beyer, the resident who gave the presentation, this has been an ongoing dispute since 2008, when Lower Providence residents received an LPVRSA letter.
Beyer said the letter announced LPVRSA surveys would be conducted for the replacement and improvement of the sewer interceptor.
“Naturally, we assumed they were referring to replace existing pipe on the other side of the Perkiomen Creek,” Beyer said, adding that in the letter there was no mention of new construction or use of residential properties.
Beyer said that she and her neighbors were then shocked to receive on Dec. 24, 2009, notices of condemnation of their properties.
“It was one of the hardest Christmases we ever had to endure,” Beyer said. “We didn’t know where to turn.”
By Jan. 26, 2010, Beyer said that she took legal action against the condemnation notice. However, Beyer said that the condemnation case would be later dismissed because the lawyer representing her case had misfiled the objections, which disallowed any evidence pertaining to the lack of Act 537 approval to be heard in court. While not saying it outright, she also hinted that impropriety between her lawyer and the LPVRSA lawyer may have occurred.
“We lost our case on a technicality, not on the merits of the case,” she said.
On Feb. 21, 2010, during a Lower Providence Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Beyer said that the residents turned to the supervisors for help in persuading the LPVRSA to look for an alternative to the sewer line.
Throughout her presentation, Beyer displayed portions of the Act 537 plan, official letters, as well as articles printed in the Times Herald, to clearly document the opposition efforts being made by the residents and the township.
Beyer displayed one such article, which recalled the “Walk-Thru” Perkiomen Creek event of May 7, 2010. This event was organized by the residents and board of supervisors.
The event included over 100 residents, State Senator John Rafferty (R-44) and State Representative Mike Vereb (R-150), along with DEP and other officials, which resulted in further support of Lower Providence’s opposition.
A month prior to the event, the township supervisors voted to unanimously oppose the LPVRSA proposed location of the Middle Interceptor.
“Once Lower Providence Township became involved, things started happening quickly, being a township that pays attention to details,” Beyer said.
On April 16, the township sent a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), pointing out that the proposed location was not approved by the township nor by the DEP in the original Act 537 plan.
Beyer then showed DEP letters to the LPVRSA. These letters were dated April 30 and Aug. 11, 2010, as well as on Aug. 26 and Nov. 17, 2011. The letters stated that the LPVRSA must have the approval of all six of its member municipalities to amend the Act 537 plan. The DEP letters also noted that the Lower Providence side of the Middle Interceptor project was not originally approved by the DEP.
LPVRSA member municipalities approved the original Act 537 plan in February 2004.
According to a Sept. 18, 2012 document released by the LPVRSA to its 65,000 ratepayers, all municipalities except Lower Providence are in favor of the Middle Interceptor location.
In a letter dated Oct. 18, 2012 [see media gallery], and sent to the LPVRSA, Lower Providence Township Manager Richard Gestrich responded to the LPVRSA document by providing an historical perspective on the dispute, which also confirms much of Beyer’s presentation.
In the letter, Gestrich asserts that the LPVRSA,
“Spent significant funds and expended valuable time by designing and submitting an application to DEP for the Cider Mill Bridge/Hoy Park stretch of the middle Interceptor that violated and contradicted the provisions of the approved 537 Plan.”
Furthermore, the letter notes that the LPVRSA has now made steps to amend the 537 Plan.
A Show of Support
Beyer’s presentation was often momentarily paused to allow for applause from the audience, particularly at the mention of the strong support by the township’s board supervisors.
“I’m very happy to see the great turnout this evening,” Richard Brown, Lower Providence Board of Supervisors chairman, said.
After the board meeting, Beyer said that she had helped rally the support at the meeting as a way to address accusations made by the LPVRSA in recent local news articles that Lower Providence is holding out because of a small group of residents.
“We organized this to show that there is a lot of people supporting this,” Mary Kaczor, Beyer’s sister, said. “We are generating effort. All-volunteer effort.”
Kaczor, who also lives along the proposed interceptor area of the Perkiomen Creek, further pointed to the over 270 signatures gathered by hand and online since 2010, protesting the project. She also noted a Facebook group started for the protest called “Save the Perkiomen Watershed,” which has 1,348 members, as of this article’s publication time.
Several audience members went before the board to comment on or add to Beyer’s presentation. Most residents expressed concern over the potential environmental damage, and were critical of the LPVRSA insistence with its plan, despite the township’s opposition, as well as calls for alternatives.
The Oct. 18 Lower Providence letter outlined several alternatives to the LPVRSA Middle Interceptor proposal, including a pump station on Arcola Road. The LPVRSA, in its Sept. 18 document, stated that the pump would be too costly.
As previously reported, the township requested a third-party engineer for an analysis of the alternatives, but was later denied the request.
Another such alternative asked that the interceptor, upon certain conditions, be placed “in its approved location on the Upper Providence side of the Perkiomen.”
For more on the story:
- "LowPro Sewer Authority Responds to Rising Rates and Interceptor Dispute"
- "In Response to LPVRSA'S Campaign of Misinformation (Patch Blog)"
- "LPVRSA Releases Official Position on Sewer Interceptor"
- "LowPro Twp. Manager Responds to Perkiomen Twp. Sewer Authority Vote"
- "Perkiomen Board Reverses Regional Sewer Authority Vote"
- "Regional Sewer Authority to Elected Officials: 'Bug Out'"