Citing cost and odor, Newtown rejects sewage plant
Newtown Township blocked the local sewer authority's controversial proposal to build a new $68 million wastewater treatment during a heated municipal meeting Sept. 11.
With the hall packed to the brim with locals fighting the proposal. the board of supervisors unanimously rejected the sewage plant on the grounds that it lacked economic merit and could harm quality of life for residents.
Matthew Benchener, vice chairman of the board, said the numbers just do not add up in favor of the new plant.
"To believe that you should support this, you would have to believe it would make sense for the sewer authority in the long term. But the plan calls for a roughly 30 years before this breaks even," he said.
Board member Phillip Calabro raised concerns about the stench the new plant would bring to the area.
"Newtown Township will become known as that place where it stinks," he said. "I don't think that's a reputation our citizens are looking to have."
Before the vote, the board heard from a long lineup of local businesspeople and residents opposed to the plan. Meeting attendees wore buttons displaying the word "sewer plant" with a red strike through it.
"This proposal lacks any merit," said Newtown resident Jack Brod, the head of a local homeowners group. "It does not put the interests of Newtown citizens first. It is not economically viable. It does not offer any better ratepayer cost certainty. It will devastate property values. And it poses serious environmental and health concerns given its size and location."
Linda Oschatz, a local resident and Realtor, raised concerns about how the sewage plant would impact the housing market. "I can already see the effects. Since the sewage plant has been publicized, my showing appointment requests have diminished," she said.
Betty Tatum, a longtime Newtown resident who lives two miles from the proposed site of the plant, said emissions from the facility would not be good for young people. The proposed plant would be located behind George School.
"What about the children at the schools? They have all kinds of sports outside.When you're running, you're breathing in a whole bunch more of what's out there than you and I are right now," she said.
Benchener said the plant would stray from what residents see as the traditional economic focal point of the town, where residents are hardly raring to become a regional mecca for sewage.
"Currently, we're tapped into one of the largest [plants] in the region, Philadelphia. Why would we want to build our own plant to serve just Newtown? You'd have to believe we were going to become a new regional hub for sewage treatment. I don't think that's what we want in Newtown Township," he said.
He encouraged members to keep paying attention to the issue in case a future board of supervisors is more sympathetic to the plan. "Our residents need to stay vigilant and on top of this issue in coming years. This is the most compelling, powerful resident-led case I've ever seen," he said.
Board member Robert Ciervo said the fate of the plant was ultimately a failure on the part of the sewer authority. "If the sewer authority really wants to do something major…you have to present this in front of the public," he said. "In one sense, the sewer authority in Newtown, they hung themselves.”
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