To comply with federal law, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority submitted a plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in January to reduce sewage overflows into creeks and rivers at a cost of $2.8 billion.
At the same time, ALCOSAN requested an 18-month extension to do a study of incorporating "green" infrastructure components proposed at public meetings. Now the people who advocated those changes say they are being shut out of the process.
On Wednesday morning, concerned ratepayers, including clergy, consumers, and environmental groups, delivered a Right to Know Act request to ALCOSAN because they say requests for information about the study have gone unanswered.
The original ALCOSAN plan comprised only "grey" infrastructure: bigger pipes and underground tunnels. Tassi Bisers of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network said that's a one-dimensional solution.
"This is a 19th century problem," Bisers said. "Theirs is a 20th century solution, when they need a 21st century solution that will take us into the next century."
Jennifer Rafanan Kennedy, director of the Clean Rivers Campaign, said green infrastructure solutions are already at work in other cities — trees, roof gardens, bioswales, rain barrels, etc. — things that trap water before it gets into the sewer system.
Nancy Barylak, spokeswoman for ALCOSAN, said information about the study is being released and public meetings will be held.
"This is not a closed process," she said. "We're drafting the scope of work right now, and it's a process of going to different audiences: 'OK, here's the scope; give us your input; OK, check you off'; then go to the next one and check that off. They will have input and they were told that."
Barylak also said the EPA has not yet granted the 18-month extension.