KINGSTON TWP. — Area builders, real estate agents and residents filled the Dallas Area Municipal Authority’s board meeting Thursday to question new proposed sewer inspections and fees.
“We are opposed to this,” Matthew Hodorowski, the president of the Luzerne County Board of Realtors said. “You have not done any impact studies to see how this would impact the public or (home) sales.”
Inspection of a home’s sewer lateral pipeline and connections is a proposed part of DAMA’s Corrective Action Plan to crack down on groundwater infiltration and illegal sewer line hook-ups, which resulted in a series of overflow incidents that released untreated sewage into Toby Creek.
The multiple overflows occurred from 2008 to 2017 and caused the state Department of Environmental Protection to issue a sewer hook-up hold, which stopped new construction in Dallas, Jackson, Kingston and Lehman townships, as well as Dallas and Harveys Lake boroughs.
The overflows were caused from groundwater infiltrating into sewer lines, as well as sump pumps and rain gutters connected to the sewer system.
At a Dallas Township supervisors’ meeting Aug. 1, Tom Keiper, executive director of DAMA, said the third-party inspection fee could be up to $500 and applied to the home sellers’ closing costs.
Shavertown realtor Ed McCabe from Four Star McCabe Realty told DAMA’s board members to go “back to the drawing board.”
“There are about 9,000 homes in the Back Mountain with (public) sewer hook-ups, if 300 sell in a year, it will take 28 years to solve this problem,” McCabe said.
“Quite often it is the same 300 homes that are selling over and over,” said Tracy Zarola, an agent with Lewith & Freeman Real Estate Inc. “So, every two years you will collect $500, and you are not going to get to the other homes.”
Brent Snowdon, the authority’s treasurer, said the frequency the same home hits the market should be considered and addressed in the Corrective Action Plan.
Sewer inspections are just one part of the plan, said DAMA chairman John Oliver.
The plan has not been available to the public yet. Oliver said it is still being developed.
“Right now, you as DAMA do not even have the power to inquire into the design of the plan and the implementation,” said authority solicitor Benjamin Jones III. “This is a reaction to the very powerful impact the moratorium has on this community.”
Jones said there is pending litigation about how DEP’s action affected DAMA.
The real estate market is not the only industry affected.
Home builders and ancillary industries are shouldering the brunt of the sewer moratorium, said John Halbing, president of Summit Point Builders in Dallas.
The problem is not with new homes being built, Halbing said. The problem exists with older homes with leaky basements and sump pumps tied-in to the sewer system, he explained.