Lake Lucy Sewage Authority Gets Help From Solar Farm Developer
WASHINGTON TWP., Pa. (EYT) – Faced with an expensive Department of Environmental Protection compliance predicament, the Lake Lucy Sewage Authority is getting help from a solar farm developer in Washington Township.
(Pictured above: A scene near the entrance of the Lake Lucy Wastewater Plant. Photos by Adrian Weber.)
The developer–Cypress Creek Renewables–is slated to break ground in March 2024 in Washington Township for the 178-acre solar farm project dubbed “Cobalt.”
Senior Community & Economic Development Manager for Cypress Creek Renewables Parker Sloan, of Asheville, North Carolina, told exploreClarion.com that Cypress is committing money in the “$15,000.00 range, but we’re here to see them through to the end of their application. Whatever they need to get through this process.”
For over a decade, the Lake Lucy Sewage Authority has been overwhelmed with compliance letters.
In November 2022, the DEP ordered the association to adhere to a plan.
According to Richard “Butch” Harriett, the active head of the Lake Lucy Sewage Authority, “The association disbanded when the former head of the association said he did not want to do this anymore, which was right after it had become an authority. He realized that authority rules and regulations are a lot more strict.
“We found out much later that in 2011 the DEP came in and said ‘We need a plan now, and you need to do this this and this.’ So, after seeing how expensive it would be to become DEP compliant, the head of the association decided to not make those changes and kept running the plant as is.”
Richard and his wife, Donna Harriett, stepped up and have been active in attempting to resolve the authority’s issues.
The Harrietts, who lived in California for 25 years, returned to Lake Lucy after the death of Richard’s mother; they currently live in Richard’s mother house that is located right across from the sewage plant.
Richard Harriett said that at the time when they took over “the authority was indigent” because the authority only serves 36 households with a $60.00 monthly fee per tap (household) which results in limited funds available to the authority to make progress on compliance.
Matt Steinman, who owns some of the parcels of land where the “Cobalt” solar farm will be built, introduced Cypress Creek Renewables and Lake Lucy Sewage Authority.
Steinman told exploreClarion.com, “I said to those guys (Cypress) ‘Listen, if a project is going to be right here, that wastewater treatment plant could really use your help.'”
Once Cypress Creek Renewables became aware of the predicament, the company came through for the Lake Lucy Sewage Authority with a monetary donation.
Cypress Creek’s representative explained, “We pride ourselves in being a good neighbor in the sense that we’re pretty quiet and also want to give back to the communities that we work with in the long term.”
With Cypress’ monetary support, the authority is able to develop a plan for a new sewer plant with the EADS Group, an engineering consulting firm in Clarion County.
Donna Harriett added, “If it wasn’t for their (Cypress) monetary support, EADS wouldn’t have been able to do anything for us. We’d still be stuck in limbo trying to figure out where to go and what to do.”
Once the EADS Group develops an Act 537 plan showing the monetary cost and economic impact of the project on the environment, it will be sent to DEP.
The Harrietts have been in contact with Clarion County officials and are awaiting approval for the EADS Group to be officially signed as engineers for the project. At the same time, EADS and the Harrietts are working on the Act 537 plan which is time-sensitive to DEP.
The county is requiring a “request of procurement” before the EADS group can be signed as an official engineer. In the meantime, the EADS Group has been assisting the authority with the fine issues and the paperwork for the DEP, according to Richard Harriett.
Donna Harriett said the next step is working with the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)–or as calls it: The Big One.
The authority has submitted a $2.5 million dollar proposal to the county for approval. This grant does not need a local match of funds, but the grant money is in competition statewide with many other entities who are asking for the money. Those funds would cover labor and the equipment and supplies necessary for the rebuild.
The sewage authority is a non-profit and has zero administrative costs.
“After the work is finished, even though it may not make rates cheaper, it will alleviate all the ongoing problems,” Richard Harriett said.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.
(Pictured above: Part of the Lake Lucy Wastewater Treatment Plant. In the top part of the photo is a portion of the field where the Cobalt Solar Project will be built.)
The Lake Lucy Wastewater Treatment Plant Project
At the plant, using gravity, water flows through two lagoons where solid materials compile at the bottom as the water makes its way through a sandpit where it is further filtered. The water then passes through an area where the water can be tested and into an “exceptional value stream.”
Richard Harriett explained that an exceptional value stream is a stream where plant and animal life are abundant and depend on the water to flourish.
In the rebuild with EADS, the two lagoons will be replaced by two buildings that will have the same function as the lagoons.
One lagoon will be abandoned while the other will be replaced as a new sand filter in the plans for the project.
“Every day, we take readings of PH, readings for the filter tank, and chlorine,” Richard Harriett explained.
He added, “Once a week we take readings for how much water is actually coming out of the system. The system is allowed to push 14,000 gallons of water a day, and the last time it was checked it was only 9,000.”
The system is also checked twice a month for hydrogen sulfate, ammonia, nitrogen, and suspended solids.
When the water passes all those tests, it is deemed “sufficiently clean” to go into the exceptional value stream.
(Pictured above: “If we miss certain criteria, we can be fined.” Richard Harriett shows exploreClarion.com Lake Lucy Sewage Authority’s readings of PH, readings for the filter tank, and chlorine.)
In the rebuild, a septic cleaning company will clean out the new buildings on a regular basis.
According to Richard Harriett, “The system is supposed to be cleaned out every so many years. So that the sand filters will still work and so that there is enough water in the lagoons that sewage and sludge will drop down, but it was never really maintained that way.”
Donna Harriett added, “And, there’s no paperwork to tell us that anything was done.
“As a volunteer, you have to really want to do what’s right, instead of what you think might be right.”
If the project gets shot down, it will fall under the direct jurisdiction of Washington Township.
“As an authority, we are wholly responsible for what goes on here and paying the bills and so on. However, if we cannot meet our responsibilities, then the township has an automatic right to take over,” Richard Harriett said.
(Pictured above: Foreground–the area where the “sufficiently clean” water fills into the exceptional value stream. Background: Land that will soon be under construction for the Cobalt Solar Project.)
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