Why We Need a Sewage Management Plan

The Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act, Act 537, requires each municipality in the Commonwealth to prepare an "Official Plan" for sewage services for all areas within its borders. The Plan must provide the legal, administrative and financial mechanisms needed to assure the long term operation and maintenance of sewage treatment and disposal facilities within the Township.

Past Plans

In the past these planning efforts tended to focus on public sewer collection, conveyance and treatment facilities, and not individual on-lot sewage disposal systems. These systems were generally labeled as interim, providing the illusion that all septic systems eventually would be replaced with public sewers. Many municipalities seemed unconcerned about assuring long term maintenance of these individual on-lot sewage disposal systems.

On-Lot Sewage Disposal Systems

On-lot sewage disposal systems are not interim facilities. The majority of these systems are used in the first place because of the isolation of the property they serve or because of the lack of municipal sewerage. The use of these systems in many cases has become permanent. On-lot sewage are practical for many rural areas, if they are properly designed, installed, operated and maintained. If proper requirements are not met, the system will either fail completely or function well below its capabilities. In either case, public health hazards or pollution problems will be the result.

Municipal Responsibility & Solutions

When public health hazards or pollution problems occur, the municipal government is legally responsible to find solutions. These solutions may range from individual enforcement actions against the owners of malfunctioning on-lot systems to planning, designing and constructing municipal facilities to replace malfunctioning on-lot systems or private treatment systems.


Each of the options available to municipal governments to resolve problems created by lack of attention to existing systems has drawbacks; malfunctions due to lack of maintenance are sometimes not repairable with standard on-lot technology and extending municipal sewers to rural low density areas creates sewer systems with high user fees. In some cases, municipal facilities bring unwanted growth to rural areas and strain municipal resources. These solutions may be costly and unpopular with the citizens of a municipality.

Without a coordinated management approach to operation and maintenance, sewage facilities plans which propose on-lot systems for long term use to serve existing homes or new land developments may create new, long term sewage problems. In addition, existing problems with on-lot systems continue to be unresolved.

Prevention & Resolution

These problems can be prevented and resolved through official sewage facilities plan updates which adequately evaluate the operation and maintenance requirements of all existing and proposed sewage facilities and establish the legal, administrative and financial mechanism to assure needed system maintenance. This sewage management approach can also be linked with system repair or replacement options to resolve existing sewage problems.

Official Sewage Facilities Plan Adoption

In 1992, the South Middleton Township Board of Supervisors adopted an Official Sewage Facilities Plan that proposed a Sewage Management Plan for those portions of the Township that are outside the proposed public sewer service area. Implementation of this plan is now being required by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. In October of 1998, the Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance that establishes the Sewage Management planning, permitting and maintenance requirements for all on-lot sewage disposal systems in the South Middleton Township.