Definitions and explanations: Shrewsbury sewer capacity

David Weissman

As numerous sewer officials made clear during interviews, the general public doesn't know or care much about public sewer capacity. As New Freedom Borough Administrator Tanya Crawford put it: "As long as you can flush your toilet and it works, you're good."

Southern York County developer Phil Robinson, of Southern Chestnut Commerce Center, marks boundaries of his land on a map in Shrewsbury, Pa. on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015.

Here are several key terms and figures explained:

Developer: Sewer stalls southern York County growth

  • EDUs: equivalent dwelling units, or units of sewer capacity that are sold to businesses or homeowners. Each EDU, as defined by Pennsylvania state laws, allows a user to run 350 gallons of sewage per day through the pipes to a treatment plant.
  • 500-800 jobs created: Two groups are attempting to develop a combined 108 acres of adjoining land along with another 50-plus acres nearby. The proposed development includes a retail center to accommodate nearly 1 million square feet of retail. Developer Phil Robinson projects that space may be occupied by four large restaurants (about 240 employees), two large retailers (about 140 employees) and 20 small retailers/food vendors (about 200 employees). The other 50 acres could accommodate 15 to 20 office/manufacturing buildings (about 300 employees), according to Robinson.
  • Built out: A term to describe a community that has completely developed all of its land to full capacity.
  • Inflow and infiltration (I&I): When sewage pipes have cracks and leaks, the main problem sewer officials deal with isn't sewage escaping the pipes, but groundwater seeping into the pipes and going through to the wastewater treatment plant, thus adding to the daily loads the plant must treat.
  • New Freedom Borough Wastewater Treatment Plant: The plant, owned by New Freedom Borough and located in Railroad Borough, is rated at 2.25 MGD, which means it can treat 2.25 millions of gallons of sewer per day. On average, the plant is operating near 50 percent of that capacity, but that number tends to rise during wet weather events due to inflow and infiltration. John Smith, the longtime director of operations at the plant, said, "No operator in the world wants to operate their plant at 100 percent capacity." Several factors have led to the plant operating below half of its capacity, including users regularly not reaching their daily 350 gallon allotments, EDUs being reserved by land owners without being hooked up to lines, and municipalities holding on to EDUs for future expansion.