The Athens Township Authority is moving forward with plans to upgrade its sewer system capacity, authority chair Pat Musto told township supervisors Wednesday.

Financing has been secured for the project to upgrade the sewer line serving the township west of the Chemung River, including the Valley Business Park, and the main pump station near Athens Area High School, Musto said. The project is estimated to cost about $4.5 million.

The project's engineering is about 60 percent complete, Musto told supervisors. The authority is in the process of obtaining the permits necessary to install the sewer main, which will go under the river, Route 220 and a railroad to the Valley's joint sewer plant.

Supervisors are expected to discuss the authority's Act 537 sewage facilities comprehensive plan at their September meeting. Once approved, the plan will be forwarded to the state Department of Environmental Protection for its review and approval, Musto said.

The authority hopes to begin construction either at the end of this year or in early 2014, depending upon weather and the timely receipt of permits, Musto said. Construction is expected to take 12 to 14 months.

In the meantime, the Valley Joint Sewer Authority has issued a capacity letter to a proposed Seaboard Wellhead facility in the Valley Business Park. The company plans to relocate to the township from its current location in Ulster.

The authority is in the process of drafting an agreement with the facility to fulfill its sewage needs until they're able to tie into the system, which is currently at capacity in that area of the township. The agreement, which Musto said engineers seemed to agree with, involves the installation of a holding tank until construction on the sewer upgrade is complete. The county sanitation committee will have to approve the plan, supervisors said.

"We're going to try to be as flexible as possible to let it happen," Musto said of the development.

Rapid growth in the township related to the natural gas industry has left the sewer system at or near capacity in several areas. The proposed sewer upgrade would boost an at-capacity pump station on King Road to handle an additional 1,000 equivalent dwelling units - the amount of demand typically created by one single-family household, or about 400 gallons of water a day.

A new force main would be installed from the King Road pump station to a station near Athens Area High School known as Pump Station No. 1, parallel to an existing sewer line in the area of Elmira Street.

Pump Station No. 1, which officials have said is near capacity, would then be upgraded to handle the additional EDUs coming from the new main. A main from that pump station to the Valley Joint Sewer Plant would then be replaced with a larger main to relieve the bottleneck.

The project does not address the Greens Landing sewer line, which is also very near capacity and will likely cost an additional $4 million to upgrade, Musto said.

Supervisors Wednesday approved the granting of $50,000 in Act 13 funding to the authority to help offset anticipated sewer rate increases associated with the project.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.