I was sent a link to an article concerning a new Chester ‘Public-Private’ partnership with a company contracted to help the city meet a federally mandated sewer system fix. After reading it several times, I finally threw up my hands and replied to the sender there are several things in the article that I just don’t understand.

I thought I’d share my confusion with you because y’all are smart and will help me understand what’s going on here.

Here’s what I do understand.

Chester is one of those old cities that has a sewer system which in many places combines sewage with rain water in the same underground pipes. It used to be okay to send all that water to the river but environmentally conscious smart people decided that it’s better to send sewage to a treatment plant and send rain water to the river.

Lately, the EPA has mandated that sewage and rain water be separated which means a lot of money must be spent to dig up streets and lay new pipe. Knowing it can’t be done overnight, the EPA has recently made cities aware of their mandate and is giving them a couple years to come up with a plan, and a couple decades to implement the plan.

Chester is in a unique position thanks to DELCORA (the wastewater treatment facility on Front & Booth). DELCORA inherited Chester’s antiquated system in 1971 when it took over the operations of wastewater treatment from the City. Even before the EPA put their two cents in, between 1999 and 2009 DELCORA developed a long-term control plan and invested $5 million in infrastructure improvements to address the issues of overflows during rain events that impacted the combined wastewater system in Chester.

About 2 years ago, DELCORA entered into a settlement agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and has 42 months to develop a long-term plan to control and reduce overflows from the City of Chester’s combined sewer and stormwater system, and 20 years to implement the plan.

I can’t make it any more clearer than that.

Yet, in the article sent to me, it states …

Chester has until 2018 to come up with a plan to minimize flooding and eliminate sewage overflow into the Delaware River and other waterways.

I guess we’re referring to the same 42 months between August 2015 and sometime in 2018 that DELCORA was first made aware of this issue.

Yet…

Chester, Pennsylvania’s recently formed Stormwater Authority announced a partnership last week that aims to help the city meet a federally mandated sewer system fix.

To that, I ask why? Isn’t this DELCORA’s issue to handle?

What may be happening here is DELCORA is taking care of stuff under that ground and this new city partnership is attacking the problem from above ground. This partnership states that its…

…developing green stormwater infrastructure…the city of Chester have identified 350 acres for potential projects…because everybody loves getting a rain garden, everybody likes getting an improved park.

That’s about all the detail provided on what this partnership is producing.

But then there’s the little issue of a $50 million dollar fee. The article doesn’t mention what this $50 million fee is all about. I don’t know who came up with $50 million, who’s demanding the fee, or who is responsible for paying the fee.

It does say that…

…the city hopes to start assessing a new stormwater fee on commercial and industrial properties that would raise the necessary $50 million.

Oh, really?

So, my guess is the city has to pay someone a $50 million fee. But who? And by when? And for what?

The final confusing issue in the article has to do with the new company the city has apparently partnered with.

With an anticipated $50 million from a new stormwater fee, Corvias will plan and implement 350 acres of green stormwater infrastructure, and manage that system for the next 20 to 30 years.

Now it seems that Corvias is charging the city of Chester $50 million to build some ponds, plant some shrubs, and cut the grass for 20 to 30 years.

Call me crazy, but I can’t make hide nor hair out of what the city’s partnership with Corvias is all about. If DELCORA is already charged with fixing the sewer system, what’s missing in this story is to what degree the city is also liable for stormwater management.

Obviously, they must have some skin in the game to be contracting folks for $50 million and 20 to 30 years of work.

Come on you smart readers. Send me the link that explains all this for me, please.

Here’s the ‘Chester Announces “Community-Based” Public-Private Partnership’ article all this confusion stems from.

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