Bethlehem to flush old sewer stations

It's a dirty job but somebody's got to do it.

Some of the town's sewer pump stations have been in active service since they were built in 1930s and 40s. In response, the Bethlehem Town Board passed a bond resolution to the order of $5.2 million during its Tuesday, April 15, meeting in order to update the outdated wastewater stations.

Maintenance of the stations has become costly, and the mix-and-match of sewer pumps over the coarse of half a century is far from uniform, making it harder for new workers to be proficient in maintaining the aging infrastructure.

The improvements are necessary, according to Supervisor Jack Cunningham, and will improve conditions for town workers, said Commissioner of Public Works Josh Cansler, and create a safer work environment and more reliable service for residents, they both concluded.

People don't want to invest their tax dollars into something they can't see but they get upset if something goes wrong," Cansler told Spotlight Newspapers during a guided tour of the town's sewer pump stations.

If things go wrong with the pump stations, he said, everything that flows out of a house could potentially flow back in very quickly. In essence, one could be up that well-known proverbial creek without a paddle.

"If these pumps failed, the sewer would back up into the homes eventually and fill up a basement" Cansler said. "Obviously nobody wants their basement flooded with sewage."

One of the original stations is the Elsmere pump station, built in the 1930s, although it has had some equipment upgrades since, according to Cansler.

"Our workforce is getting older and they'll be taking a lot of knowledge with them when they go," Cansler said of the need to have sewer station conformity. "Right now just about every station is different."

As it stands now, the town board authorized the town to bid out the work to replace seven pump stations, three this year and four next. Cunningham said there are only estimated costs at this time because a bid has yet to be awarded, but that it will most likely cost a household within the sewer districts about $20 a year for the next 30 years.

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