EBENSBURG — The Ebensburg Municipal Authority has received a $9 million state loan for the completion of a large-scale wastewater infrastructure project.

Borough officials said Monday that the low-interest Pennvest loan was announced by state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Johnstown. The funds will enable the borough to complete sanitary improvement projects, including the replacement of 60,500 feet of main line piping.

Pennvest — the Pennsylvania Infrastruc­ture and Investment Authority — awards grants and low-interest loans to municipalities for water and wastewater upgrades.

Borough Council President Doug Tusing said that while the authority did receive the full $9 million in loans it requested, the authority failed to receive any grants from Pennvest in conjunction with the loan.

“We were hopeful that we would’ve received grant money,” Tusing said.

Tusing did note that the borough was fortunate to receive the entirety of the loan it applied for from Pennvest.

“More money would’ve been nice,” he said. “But we’re pleased with what we got.”

The borough will have a 25-year window to repay the loan, Tusing said.

Interest for the loan from Pennvest is 1 percent.

The intention of the project is to remove stormwater and groundwater from sanitary sewer lines.

The state Department of Environmental Protection previously mandated that water lines be fixed because of exceeded limits of storm-and groundwater flowing through the system.

As a result of the infrastructure replacement, Councilman Dave Kuhar said the project requires easements through borough-owned property at six locations.

Public notices have been made, with “approximately 300 easements mailed out to affected properties.”

Tusing said the project is one of the largest the borough has undertaken.

“This project covers about 80 percent of Ebensburg,” he said

The project will soon go to bid; bids are expected to be awarded in January. Construction for the project could begin in March or April.

Council also discussed ending a practice involving the borough’s water system.

A letter from the Ebensburg Municipal Authority recommended that the borough cease the use of fluoride in the municipality’s water system.

Of the 16 water systems in Cambria County, Ebensburg is the only system that currently fluoridates its water.

Kuhar said the Greater Johnstown Municipal Authority — the only other remaining municipality adding fluoride to its system — recently stopped the practice.

Tusing said that while adding fluoride to the water system was a common practice for several years, he questioned the purpose of the practice.

“There was no evidence required that showed it was necessary or appropriate,” Tusing said.

Tusing also cited possible health risks associated with the consumption of fluoride, and when weighing the risks against the benefits, he concluded that fluoride is not beneficial to keep in the systems.

Mayor Randy Datsko suggested that there were many people in the community that thought otherwise.

“There are many people with contrary thoughts,” Datsko said.

Use of fluoride, a mineral used to fight tooth decay, is endorsed by the National Dental Association.

Tusing confirmed that fluoride continues to be placed in the system’s water, and if the borough were to cease the practice, a minor permit amendment must be submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The municipal authority cited Johnstown’s recent cessation of fluoridation as a reason to stop the practice, as well. One disgruntled man attending the meeting claimed that the borough “should not make decisions based on what Johnstown does.”

Tusing said the recommendation was not solely based on Johnstown’s decision.

Ebensburg Municipal Authority Chairman Jerry McMullen said the decision from the authority to make the recommendation was “not unanimous.”

McMullen’s vote was the only one in favor of fluoridating the water; Tusing and Secretary/Treasurer Eric Rummel voted to discontinue the practice.

Kuhar recommended that a public meeting take place, saying the public “needs an opportunity to be heard.”

McMullen said the issue will be discussed at the municipal authority’s public meeting at 4 p.m. Nov. 20.

*Original article online at http://www.altoonamirror.com/news/local-news/2017/10/ebensburg-gets-9m-for-wastewater-project/