In Northampton Township, Toll Bros. is seeking final approval for Leehurst Farm, a 40-home development.

In Middletown Township, the Durham Ridge and Whispering Woods developments have lots for 10 to 12 new houses.

But those houses and all new construction projects in most of lower Bucks County are blocked by a ban on new sewer hookups issued last month by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The ban "will have a negative impact on growth and the revenue generated from growth," Northampton Township Manager Robert Pellegrino said Monday. "Northampton doesn't have a lot going on, but we do have projects in the process of approval, and [the ban] ultimately will affect them."

"That would not be helpful, especially in this economy," he added.

The DEP said it issued the ban because of a sewage pumping station that has been operating above capacity for years. An overloaded system can result in overflowing toilets and polluted streams, DEP spokeswoman Deborah Fries said.

The Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority, which operates the Totem Road Pump Station, "strongly disagrees with the DEP's findings," spokesman Patrick Cleary said.

"The station is not in an overload" condition, he said. "There is no indication of any overflows."

The station has peak flows of 55 million to 58 million gallons per day (mgd), below its capacity of 60 mgd, Cleary said.

A state permit issued in 1992 describes the station's capacity as 60 mgd. Fries said its "permitted capacity" is 50.8 mgd.

The DEP has asked the authority "to provide additional information regarding its permits and flow," Fries said. "We are always willing to take new information into consideration."

The DEP sent the authority a notice of violation in March and banned new hookups on June 26. The ruling prohibits new building permits in Newtown Township and Newtown, Langhorne, Hulmeville, and Penndel Boroughs. It also bans building permits for parts of seven other townships - Bensalem, Bristol, Falls, Lower Makefield, Lower Southampton, Middletown and Northampton - and Langhorne Manor Borough.

The ban does not affect projects that already had a permit, Fries said.

The DEP directed the authority to begin work to immediately on increasing the system's capacity. It also set several deadlines for status reports, including Sept. 21 for a "corrective action plan."

The authority is "in discussions" with the DEP, Cleary said, and is prepared to appeal the hookup ban to the state Environmental Hearing Board. The deadline for an appeal is Friday.

DEP officials were meeting this week with representatives of the municipalities to outline needed improvements, such as reducing the load on the pumping station by keeping storm water and groundwater out of the sewerage system.

"As corrections are made, new connections could be made available," Fries said.

Previous improvements not included in the authority's annual report also could lighten the restrictions, she said. "We're willing to work with them."

In Northampton, besides the Toll development, homeowners could be blocked by the ban on sewer connections.

"Ironically, the DEP wants residents of the Traymore Manor development and the neighboring area to convert from septic systems to public sewer hookups," Pellegrino said, "and now we can't connect those properties."

Contact Bill Reed at 215-801-2964,, or follow on Twitter @breedbucks. Read his blog, "BucksInq," at