FAQ

Q. I own a rental property- can the sewer bill be sent directly to my tenant?

A.  A duplicate bill can be sent to the tenant of a rental property. However, the property owner/landlord is the person ultimately responsible if a sewer bill becomes delinquent; therefore, the property owner/landlord will still receive an original copy of the bill. This will allow the property owner/ landlord to remain aware of whether the sewer bill is being paid or not.

Tenants may also request a copy of the bill under the PA Utility Service Tenants Rights Act.

Q. How can I have billing stopped?

A.  If a residence will be uninhabitable for an extended period of time, you can contact the WBRA office to have the water shut off. Once the water is physically shut off at the curb box the billing will stop. If you do not request in writing to have the water turned off, billing will continue. WBRA only allows billing to stop for uninhabitable properties (due to fire, flooding, etc.) and does not stop billing for temporary or seasonal vacation.

Q. Can I make a payment over the phone?

A.  No, not at this time.

Q. What is a tapping fee and why does it cost so much?

A.  Sewer utilities recover the cost of building and operating the sewer system infrastructure (pipes, pumps, treatment systems, etc.) through two means; User Rates and Tapping Fees. Tapping Fees are typically a one-time cost that occurs when a new building is connected to the sewer system, or an existing building is expanded. The Tapping Fee, despite its name, is not the cost associated with physically connecting a pipe to the system. Instead, it covers a portion of the capital investment from the construction of the system. One way to think of the Tapping Fee is as a way to reserve space in the pipes and at the treatment plant for the waste water generated from your home or business. User Rates include a portion of this capital cost as well, but also include the cost to operate the infrastructure (staff, energy, parts, fuel, etc.) on a day-to-day basis.

Tapping Fees are expensive because the cost of the infrastructure is expensive. Think about the last time you saw pipeline work along the road; there were workers, heavy machinery, pipes, stone, paving, traffic control- all these things have a cost. Building a treatment plant is even more involved; with buildings, pumps, machinery, site excavation, etc. The Tapping Fee captures a portion of those costs and offsets the impact on user rates.

Q. What is an EDU and how is it calculated?

A.  An Equivalent Dwelling Unit, or one (1) EDU, is defined as the amount of sewage flow that is equal to the flow from a typical single family residential household, as defined under PA Act 57 of 2003. EDUs are used in the WBRA system as the basis for tapping fees and for monthly billing. There is no typical use rate for commercial establishments, so they are evaluated on an individual basis and converted to an EDU basis.

The Pennsylvania Tapping Fee Law includes a methodology that calculates an EDU based on 90 gallons per person, per day, multiplied by the typical number of people in a household based on the census at the time of calculation. The basis of an EDU for WBRA is 213.3 gallons per day, per EDU. For the purpose of billing, WBRA has developed a list of typical non- residential uses and the corresponding EDU associated with those uses. These EDU values can be found in the most recent version of WBRA’s Rate Resolution.

Q. What if my sewage backs up in my basement?

A.  In the event of a sewer backup, immediately contact West Branch Regional Authority at (570) 935-0087 so a proper assessment can be done to determine the general cause of the back- up. Please be aware that the majority of sewer back-ups that WBRA encounters are due to the presence of roots in the customer’s lateral (the pipe that connects the building to the sewer), or other related lateral issues. WBRA is not responsible to address the back-ups that occur due to lateral related problems.

Q. I have an odor in my basement, what do I do?

A.  You may experience different types of odors coming from your sewer lines. Any persistent odor is cause for concern, as it may indicate the presence of potentially harmful gases. If you experience a significant, persistent sewer odor in your home please contact WBRA.

Your building’s plumbing should be equipped with a trap and vent system that creates a water barrier that stops sewer gas from entering your home. The most common cause of sewer smells within a home is that the trap and vent system has either stopped working or was never installed. Lateral problems such as roots, broken pipe, or poor pipe slope can also exacerbate odors

Q. What are inflow and infiltration?

A.  Inflow is storm water (rain) that is discharged into the sewer system through improper connections, such as downspouts and basement sump pumps.

Infiltration is groundwater that enters the sewer system through leaks in broken sewer pipes and house laterals.

Q. Why is Inflow and Infiltration water a problem?

A.  Inflow and infiltration that gets into the sanitary sewers must be treated like sanitary waste. This creates additional costs (pumping, electricity, chemicals, etc.) which in turn affect the user rates. Excessive inflow and infiltration can overload the sewers or the treatment plant and cause sewer backups or discharges of untreated waste water to the river and/or streams.

Q. What is a sanitary sewer?

A.  A sanitary sewer transports wastewater from sanitary fixtures inside your house or place of business. Sanitary fixtures include toilets, sinks, bathtubs, showers and lavatories.

Q. What is a lateral and who is responsible to maintain it?

A.  A lateral is the sanitary sewer pipe carrying sewage from a house or business to the main sewer. The property owner is responsible for maintaining the lateral.

Q. What is an improper connection to the sanitary sewer system?

A.  An improper connection permits water from sources other than sanitary fixtures to enter the sanitary sewer system.

Some examples of improper connections include downspouts, sump pumps, and foundation drains. Floor drains located in basements are considered improper connections as they can allow flood or seepage water into the sewer, similar to a sump pump or foundation drain.

Q. Where should the water from downspouts, groundwater sump pumps, and/or other clear water sources be directed?

A. Water should be discharged to storm sewers, above ground drainage ditches or curb areas, as far from the building as practical.

Q. Why is it important for WBRA employees to inspect homes and encourage everyone to remove improper connections?

A.  Inflow from sump pumps, floor drains, foundation drains and other improper connections can overwhelm the sewer system, creating back-ups of raw sewage into basements or spills out of the sewer system that enter creeks or the River. These conditions represent a health hazard to the public, and can result in steep fines from the Department of Environmental Protection. Removing improper connections will significantly reduce the surplus flow of water into the sanitary sewer system and will reduce treatment costs.

Q. What can I safely pour down the sink or into the toilet?

A.  The waste water from your home or business will eventually end up in the Susquehanna River, after treatment. The WBRA treatment system is designed to treat sewage, and does not treat the water for non- sewage materials, so of you wouldn’t pour it into the river, don’t pour it into the sewer.

Non-sewage materials like oil, gasoline, paint, acetone, or other chemicals should never be put into the sewer. Prescription drugs should not be flushed, and should be disposed of at one of the permanent medicine drop-off locations. A listing of the permanent drop-off sites is provided on the County website: http://www.lyco.org/Portals/1/Commissioners/Documents/2015/Drug%20Take%20Back%20Permanent%20Locations%20Spring%202015%20Springversion.pdf

Some materials can cause mechanical problems like blocked sewer lines, clogged pumps, etc. To prevent mechanical problems, never put cat litter, packaging, paper towels, or flushable wipes in the sewer. These items can build up in your lateral or in the WBRA’s sewer and cause backups that can flood basements with raw sewage.

Q. My property had an improper connection when I bought the property; is it grandfathered in?

A.  No, all connections must meet the current WBRA Rules and Regulations regardless of when they were installed.