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Council prepping for hefty costs over water systems

Water meters that lay outside the borough likely to be replaced in 2020

At Berlin Borough’s Council monthly meeting earlier this month, councilman Ron Rocco briefed his fellow council members on an important upcoming project that is expected to cost the borough nearly $1 million in order to keep part of its water system in line with requirements by the Board of Public Utilities.

By request from council, Pennoni Associates, Inc. conducted an evaluation of potential water meter replacement projects. According to the engineering company, Berlin Borough is responsible for 2,489 water meters in other municipalities, such as Voorhees and Berlin Township, and is therefore responsible to test the water meters at least once every 10 years.

According to a letter from Pennoni Associates, Inc. to council, Berlin Borough must test or replace 2,150 of these meters, which range from one to 18 years old and are located outside of Berlin Borough, next year.

With the passing of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act in 2014, the maximum lead content allowed in drinking water went from 8 percent to .25 percent, which, according to the letter, the “majority of the water meters installed prior to 2014 are not in compliance with.”

The engineering company has proposed two options for how the borough could move forward with addressing the needed updates.

Option one would would involve testing and re-installing all meters outside Berlin Borough, which would require property owners to schedule two separate installation dates.

“This process includes removing the meter from the residence, installing a temporary section of pipe in place of the meter, testing the meter and reinstallation of the meter during a second appointment,” said the letter.

Any meters found to be inaccurate during this process would prompt replacement with a new meter. In total, it is estimated that such a project would cost $860,000, providing no meters require replacing.

Meanwhile, option two includes full replacement of all meters outside the borough’s jurisdiction, according to the letter. The meters will be installed pre-tested to meet the requirements stated in the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act, requiring only one appointment for residents.

The total cost for such a project is currently estimated at $900,000, including design and construction oversight. According to the letter, Pennoni Associates, Inc. recommends pursuing option two, as it “will ensure the Borough’s commitment to providing clean drinking water to its customers as well as ensure compliance with the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act and the BPU’s regulations.”

According to Rocco, the borough has not yet voted in favor of pursuing either option, as the borough is continuing to search for financial avenues to make such projects possible. This project, combined with the needed refurbishment of the Chestnut Street water tower next year which is currently estimated at $1.7 million, comes with a total estimated cost of $2.6 million.

However, Rocco says he does not expect council to vote on such projects until the beginning of next year, due to the amount of time needed for the borough to thoroughly review project details and the high costs.

“The finance departments knows that we need an estimated $2.6 million and it’s in their domain to try to get funds for these projects,” said Rocco. “I would venture to say that these projects are not put forward with a resolution until at least February.”

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