A long line of speakers formed inside the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) boardroom this morning as ratepayers waited their turn to ask the authority’s executive director to find a “greener” solution to the region’s sewage overflow problems. Earlier this year ALCOSAN released a draft wet weather plan that would, when implemented, end sewage overflows during heavy rains.
The plan calls for the construction of more than $3 billion in infrastructure to store the mix of sewage and rainwater produced during heavy storms and then slowly move it through the system. ALCOSAN officials are asking for the 2008 federal consent decree to be modified to allow for more time and less expense.
In the meantime, environmental groups and individuals have been loudly calling for the use of more “green” infrastructure in the wet weather plan. The groups say the best solution is to prevent the rainwater from ever getting into the sewers. ALCOSAN has countered that it does not have any authority to make those types of changes. Maren Cook of Squirrel Hill spoke at today’s public hearing on the draft plan and disagrees.
“Through rate setting, discounts, and other incentives you can certainly encourage greener, more distributed solutions such as permeable pavement, rainwater harvesting and storage, green roofs, increase open space and vegetation and generally wiser and more affordable and more sustainable development,” said Cook.
Also giving testimony was Resurrection Baptist Church Pastor Richard Freemen. He told ALCOSAN that he not only speaks for his church in Braddock but for a long list of other ratepayers.
“Many other municipalities in the country have already utilized [green] solutions including Cleveland, and I’m kind of believing if Cleveland can do it Pennsylvania can do it, Pittsburgh can do it. There’s nothing Cleveland has ever done that we can’t do better,” said Freeman.
Today is the last day to comment on the draft plan. A final plan is due by the end of January 2013.