Sewer overflow

In anticipation of a wet weather plan from ALCOSAN, Pittsburgh City Council members Corey O’Connor and Deb Gross have introduced legislation aimed at helping some of the city’s most vulnerable areas develop green infrastructure.

Under a consent decree, the city, Allegheny County and the federal Environmental Protection Agency must develop a plan to keep raw sewage from overflowing and spilling into area rivers during wet weather. Some areas are harder hit than others, including part of Gross’s district.

One-tenth of an inch of rain over an hour is all it takes for the region’s sewers to overflow.

That’s according to the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN), which has already issued two Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) alerts this season.  The Authority is hoping that as the river recreation season takes hold more recreational users will take note.

Wilsonious / flickr

To help comply with a consent order to reduce sewer overflows in the Pittsburgh region, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is offering grants to encouraging home and business owners to install rainwater conservation projects.

Faced with implementing a $2 billion sewer overflow project, ALCOSAN is turning to the community for help.  It is hosting a series of community discussions focusing on the issue that affects all 83 municipalities under ALCOSAN.

In 2008 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a consent decree which requires the agency to create a plan to fix sewer overflow in the region.

Where does the sewage go when you flush your toilet?

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority will show you that and more Saturday at its annual open house, featuring more than 40 exhibits about how to protect the region’s rivers and streams.

The event includes a Q&A session with a plumber, Environmental Jeopardy, a performance of "Little Mermaid’s Pollution Solution" by Gemini Theatre, a walk-through simulated sewer pipe and a tour of ALCOSAN’s facilities.

3 Rivers Wet Weather

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority plans to spend more than $2 billion to build miles of new underground tunnels, and to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant.

Some clean river advocates are pushing for alternatives, like green infrastructure.

The Allegheny Front’s Julie Grant looks at the latest in the debate over ALCOSAN’s plan to renovate the region’s sewer system in an on-going series titled Ripple Effects.

A broad coalition of environmental and community groups Monday urged Pittsburgh City Council to pursue green infrastructure solutions to the city’s storm water overflow problem.

Jennifer Szweda Jordan / Allegheny Front

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) has received a $5 million loan from the state for sewer improvement projects in the Hill District and the South Side.  

The PWSA and all communities in Allegheny County are under a 2004 Consent Order to reduce sewer overflows on rainy days.

PWSA interim executive director Jim Good said cities that have been built in the last 100 years have a separate sanitary and storm water systems.  But older cities including New York, Boston and Pittsburgh have combined, single pipe systems.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority on Wednesday submitted a $165 million plan to meet a 2002 federal mandate to reduce sewage overflows into Pittsburgh waterways.

“We’ve been working on the plan for a little over 10 years,” said Jim Good, PWSA’s interim executive director. “If you printed it out on paper the plan weighs 29 pounds.”

Good said the plan is “compliant gray,” but the authority went a step further. 

The Allegheny County Health Department issued its second combined sewer overflow (CSO) alert of the season Thursday.

The advisories notify swimmers, boaters and other river-goers if the water has been contaminated by raw sewage after heavy rainfall clogs waste treatment facilities. The length of the advisories depends on the time it takes for the sewer systems to return to normal levels.

The CSO alerts do not prohibit recreational river activity, but advise the public to reduce water contact, especially those with weak immune systems or open cuts and sores.