Township ‘On The Hook’ for $50,000 Sewer Valve Repair

Lower Pottsgrove’s Sanatoga Lake sewer pumping station (at top), safely secured behind fencing and barbed wire, as seen Tuesday on South Sanatoga Road

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – The roughly $50,000 repair of a 27-year-old failed valve at the Sanatoga Lake sewer pumping station on South Sanatoga Road, operated by the Lower Pottsgrove Authority, has been paid out of its budget without the benefit of an insurance reimbursement, authority administrator and township Manager Ed Wagner told its board members during their virtual meeting Monday (Oct. 12, 2020).

The authority’s insurance policy doesn’t cover “defects or mechanical wear and tear,” Wagner learned, and so its submitted claim to recover the cost was denied. “We’re on the hook for it,” he said in presenting them with an update.

The valve was installed in 1993 and is located 14 feet below ground, according to board Vice Chairman Cody Robbins. Its leak was discovered in late summer and fixing the problem was considered an emergency need, township engineering representative Chad Camburn of Bursich Associates reported. Reaching it required excavation, the cost of which was part of the total expense.

Camburn indicated the leak probably could not have been foreseen, and at the time work crews were somewhat unsure where in the system it had developed. It was later traced to the valve and its gasket. The engineer marveled that, given the acidic content it handled, the valve lasted as long as it did.

Or, Wagner suggested, maybe it didn’t.

As part of its investigation into the valve failure, the board hired an outside consultant for an analysis and suggestions. His report – praised by both Wagner and Camburn as “very thorough” and included in documents delivered to board members before Monday’s meeting – speculated the valve “may have been defective from Day One” when it was installed almost three decades ago, Wagner said.

Robbins wondered if costly future repairs could be avoided by building a manhole and vault down to the valve location so it could be better monitored by pump operators and inspectors. The cost of that construction, however, probably amounts to $15,000, Camburn estimated. A majority of board members said they couldn’t justify the extra expense. “The barn door is already open,” Chairman James Toth observed.

Wagner, however, offered to obtain more precise estimates for the manhole work for the board to consider during another session.

Photo by The Post