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 HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (DER) Secretary Arthur A. Davis today announced an initiative to help municipalities enforce sewage regulations and solve residential on-lot sewage problems.
 "Malfunctioning sewage systems the leading cause of waterborne illnesses and are one of the largest sources of groundwater pollution," Davis said. "Conscientious sewage planning and management dramatically reduces the risk of pollution and disease."
 In a letter to municipalities, their sewage enforcement officers and members of the General Assembly, Davis said the "New Focus for the 537 Program" will give better technical support to municipalities to carry out their legal responsibilities.
 Act 537, the state's Sewage Facilities law, makes municipalities responsible for the safe operation of sewage systems, including on-lot systems such as septic tanks. Municipalities also are responsible for drawing up plans to make environmentally sound sewage service available and their "Act 537 plans" must include planning for future growth.
 "The future of the sewage facilities program lies in helping local officials and the general public become able and willing partners in protecting public health and the environment," Davis said.
 He said DER will develop several programs over the next few months including:
 -- A public information campaign to explain how properly planned, constructed and maintained sewage facilities can prevent pollution;
 -- A clearinghouse to provide information about on-lot system design -- including alternate and experimental systems -- and how to deal with malfunctions;
 -- Plans for a research and development center to develop and test new and innovative methods of on-lot sewage disposal;
 -- An investigation of possibilities for a financial assistance program for homeowners who can't afford to repair malfunctioning on-lot systems;
 -- A strategy to ensure that sludge from septic tanks or sewage treatment plants is properly treated and disposed of at readily accessible sites.
 Davis said: "I would also like to clarify some recent misunderstandings about requiring municipalities to adopt sewage management ordinances that would have local inspectors trespassing on private property to search for malfunctioning septic systems," Davis said. "I assure you that we have not initiated any such program."
 He said the department will take enforcement actions against municipalities for inadequate sewage planning only when there are grave threats to public health.
 -0- 8/26/93
 /CONTACT: Pam DiSalvo of DER, 717-787-1323/

CO: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources ST: Pennsylvania IN: ENV SU:

MK -- PH018 -- 6286 08/26/93 15:17 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Aug 26, 1993

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