The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has reversed a decision of the Environmental Hearing Board that nullified a Joint Act 537 plan between Hegins and Hubley townships. The plan was the first comprehensive revision to either township’s Act 537 plans since 1967. In the joint plan, the townships proposed the construction of a 600,000-gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant in Hubley Township. The plan also proposed the installation of public sewers in various sections of both townships where there has been on-lot septic malfunctions and direct discharges of raw sewage into waters of the Commonwealth. On April 17, 2015, the DEP approved the joint plan, and several landowners appealed DEP’s approval. Hegins Township changed position during the appeal and decided to join the landowners’ challenge to the economic feasibility of the joint plan. The projected the cost of the project is approximately $26 million.
The ruling means the joint plan can move forward. The Commonwealth Court decision, filed Tuesday, was heard before Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer, Judge Ellen Ceisler and Senior Judge Dan Pellegrini. In an unreported opinion, Judge Ceisler writes: “We agree with Hubley and DEP that the board’s ruling undermines the act’s procedures and contradicts the act’s express policy of protecting ‘public health, safety and welfare of the citizens by providing for a technically competent, integrated and coordinated system of sanitary sewage disposal. We will not permit Hegins to escape its public commitment, and its agreed-upon obligation, to work with Hubley and the Hegins-Hubley Water Authority to implement a viable sewage treatment plan without following ‘the proper and transparent procedures outlined in the Sewage Facilities Act.’ ”
The Court also denied Hegins Township’s request to remand the matter to DEP for additional public comment on the most recent revisions to the joint plan.
Paul J. Bruder of Mette Evans & Woodside represented Hubley Township throughout the EHB proceeding and the Commonwealth Court appeal.