Municipalities' protest against wastewater treatment sale rejected

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
The City of York's wastewater treatment plant.
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
John A. Pavoncello photo

The state Public Utility Commission rejected protests from five municipalities against the $235 million sale of York City's wastewater treatment system to a private operator.

Calling the protests "premature," the commission alleged that it could not accept the filings because it has not yet officially accepted the application from Pennsylvania American Water Co., which is looking to purchase the wastewater system.

"Until an application is formally accepted by the Commission, comments or protests are not timely because the full filing/case does not yet exist," PUC spokesperson Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said in a statement.

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West Manchester, Manchester, Spring Garden and York townships, as well as North York borough, all filed protests with the commission. The municipalities together constitute the York Area Regional Sewer Authority.

In protests dated July 19, the municipalities particularly took issue with the fact that the company, in its application, states it wishes to modify the existing intermunicipal agreement the municipalities have with the city.

The problem, they say, is that the intermunicipal agreement would no longer be in effect if the company took ownership of the system from the city.

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Instead, an entirely separate agreement between the company and the municipalities would need to be drafted and agreed upon — which would likely entail rate hikes.

“We were sort of shocked . . . as our attorney told us there’s no issue in filing at this point,” said Kelly Kelch, spokesperson for the authority. “But we don’t consider this a setback at all.”

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The municipalities intend to refile the protests once the PUC accepts the application, if it does, Kelch said. It is unclear, however, when that decision will be made.

In addition to the municipalities' protests, the PUC rejected a separate protest by the state Office of Consumer Advocate.

In that protest, the agency requested that the PUC allow it to investigate whether the proposed rates are fair before it makes a decision.

Protests from the office regarding similar deals is commonplace, agency officials have said.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.