Q. What is the Franconia Sewer Authority (FSA)?
A. Franconia Sewer Authority (FSA) was created in 1965 to provide public sewer service to those in need in Franconia Township and surrounding areas. It operates according to the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Act. FSA was not created to make a profit. The cost to construct new sewer lines is shared among those who will benefit; operating costs are passed onto customers in the form of a quarterly service invoice.
Q. How do you decide if public sewers are going to be installed?
A. Generally, the decision to extend public sewers is based on need – not just the need of one individual, but that of many property owners in a given area. If one or two On-Lot Disposal Systems (OLDS) have failed in an area, attempts should be made to correct the problem on the individual properties. However, if a number of OLDS are failing in an area, the likelihood of correcting these systems on-lot needs to be considered based on lot sizes and soil types. The most cost-effective solution – for current and future failures – may be the installation of public sewer.
Q. If only a couple of properties on my street have problems, will I have to connect to the public sewer lines?
A. Maybe. It might be necessary to connect the area of failing On-Lot Disposal Systems (OLDS) to an existing sewer main. If the route of the connection line is down your street, you will likely be included in the public sewer extension. For a more detailed answer, see the question below "If public sewers are installed do I have to connect?"
Q. What if I want public sewer?
A. Public sewer is a community endeavor. From a community standpoint, if only one or two properties have failing systems, it would be more beneficial economically to correct the failing On-Lot Disposal Systems (OLDS). It is possible that public sewer may be near your house and wouldn’t require a major sewer extension. Check with the Authority to see if a main runs near your house, or if public sewer is being planned for your area.
Q. What if I don’t want public sewer?
A. Similar to the question above, if it’s needed for an area, the main can’t skip past properties whose owners don’t need or want public sewer. If you don’t want public sewer and it’s being planned for your area, see the response to the next question.
Q. If public sewers are installed, do I have to connect?
A. First, according to Township Ordinance 328, a house that is more than 150 feet from the road is not required to connect (although it can). From the same Ordinance, if public sewer is available, rather than repair a malfunctioning on-lot system, the property must connect to public sewer. Additionally, if public sewer is available, connection must be made at the time of sale (please check out the Ordinance available at the Township building for complete wording). In all other cases, the Board of Supervisors determines if connection is mandatory. Typically, however, since the sewer main is considered an improvement, that cost will have to be paid by the homeowner whether or not connection is actually made to public sewer.
Q. Why do some properties have grinder pumps and others just go to a gravity sewer main?
A. If a property’s wastewater will not flow into the system simply by gravity, then a grinder pump needs to be installed to pump up to the gravity line. It may be economically beneficial to put some properties on grinder pumps to avoid installing a deep gravity sewer. Grinder pumps are the property of the homeowner following installation.
Q. How will I know if I can connect?
A. A letter will be sent to you indicating that sewer service is available. This letter starts the 90-day clock for the connection discount (see the question “So how do I pay for public sewer?”). The procedures are basically as follows:
- Stop by the Township building and get a “Sewer Lateral Application Packet.” The packet contains all of the information that you and your plumber need to fill out, as well as a step-by-step procedure for the connection process.
- Return the completed packet. No money is required at this time.
- You will be notified when your permit is ready. When you pick up your permit, you will be expected to pay for the connection costs in full.
Q. Do I have to use a certified plumber to install the lateral from my house to the main?
A. No. But remember that the installation has to be done according to Code and will be inspected.
Q. Where can I find the Code that will be used for inspection?
A. The Code is a thorough document covering all aspects of sewer installation. You can view it on the website under Construction Specs. However, the parts the average homeowner would need are the House Connection drawings, and if needed, Grinder Pump and Force Lateral Cleanout (for grinder pump systems).
Q. What are the costs to connect to public sewer?
A. There are four costs applied to public sewer hook-up. These are:
- The cost of the sewer main (the pipe that is in the road);
- The EDU cost;
- The cost to run the sewer pipe from your house to the sewer main in the street, called a lateral; and
- The fee for inspecting the lateral to make sure that it meets code requirements. The inspection fee is generally rolled into the EDU cost for residential connections.
See a more detailed description under Cost to Connect.
Q. How is the cost of the sewer main calculated for each property owner?
A. The Authority and Township use a benefit assessment as provided for in the Second Class Township Code. A benefit assessment basically states that since each residence gets the same benefit, each pays the same amount. The overall cost of construction for a defined area (called a Sewer District) is divided by the number of users (both current and potential). This in essence is the same logic used in developing an EDU.
Q. How much does it cost to get public sewer?
A. This depends on a number of factors:
- Construction of the sewer main - generally the most variable cost and changes based on sewer depth, the amount of rock encountered, and piping distance. Recent installations have ranged between $14,000 and $25,000.
- The EDU cost - varies depending on the treatment plant that takes the wastewater. Currently $9,967.
- The sewer lateral cost - depends on the length of pipe that needs to be run as well as any obstacles that may have to be addressed, but ranges from about $6,000 to $15,000.
- The lateral inspection fee - a flat $500.
- The treatment cost - currently runs $170 per quarter for residential customers.
Q. What is an EDU?
A. An EDU – short for either Equivalent Dwelling Unit or Equivalent Domestic Unit – is a way of standardizing wastewater flow. Wastewater from a typical three-bedroom home will have the following pollutants (among others) – Biochemical Oxygen Demand (a measure of organic matter) of about 250 parts per million (ppm), ammonia nitrogen of about 20 ppm, and phosphorus of about 5 ppm. In addition, flow will be between 250 and 330 gallons per day.
Treatment plants are generally designed to remove these pollutants from a specified number of homes or equivalent dwelling units. Commercial establishments, public facilities, and industries can all discharge into the treatment plant, but their flows and pollutant loads will likely be greater than an individual home. To keep everything the same, water coming from, for example, a small restaurant will be charged 5 EDU or the equivalent of 5 homes.
Q. Isn’t there grant money available to reduce sewer construction costs?
A. Grant money is very limited and generally has a requirement that the municipality (not the individual homeowner) have a below-average median income. Franconia Township, as a whole, has an above-average median income. The grant sources most often cited include PennVest, HUD block grants, and USDA Rural Infrastructure. We work with our legislators continuously to try to get grant money.
Q. So how do I pay for public sewer?
A. It is understood that the installation of public sewers can create a major financial hardship on many of our residents. In an effort to do all that we can, the Authority at times is able to discount some of the costs associated with public sewer installation and connection. There is a state-run program providing low-interest loans for connection to public sewer. Information on this loan can be found on this site by clicking Morwood Project, then Pennvest Loan.
Q. How do I pay my bill?
A. You can currently make payment via mail or in per person at the Township building. You can also pay online using a credit card or check. This service is provided by a third-party vendor, and they add a handling fee (which goes to them, not the Authority). Most banks offer online bill payment at little or no cost. Check with your bank to see if they offer this service.
Please note that if you are paying at the Township building after receiving notice of pending water shut-off, payment must be made by either cash or money order. We apologize, but we get a number of bad checks in the final moments. Any other time, checks are fine.
Q. Why does my sewer bill stay the same, but my water bill changes each quarter?
A. All residents on public water have a water meter so the water provider can charge based on usage. Wastewater is not metered at individual homes, and a large percentage of sewer customers do not have public water. Therefore, we have no way to charge residences based on a meter number. Much like an EDU, residents are charged based on average usage calculated from totalizing meters at the wastewater plant.
Q. Does that mean an industry gets charged the same as a residence?
A. No, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers are charged on metered water usage or a specific estimate for their operations. If a commercial operation uses 10 times as much water as a residence, their bill would be 10 times higher (or more, because of potential “loading” surcharges).
Q. What if I don't pay my sewer bill?
A. We ask that your bill in a timely manner. Failing to keep your account current puts a financial burden on all rate-payers. For this reason, we have implemented procedures to encourage timely payments. These procedures include applying late fees, reminder letters and ultimately shutting off water service placing a sign on the property and/or taking court action.