ALCOSAN’s Clean Water Plan is a long-term blueprint for improving the quality of the region’s waterways. Because of the topography of the region and the age of the sewer infrastructure that sends wastewater to the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority’s treatment plant, the system becomes overloaded when it rains or when snow melts. In turn, that causes diluted untreated wastewater that contains sewage and other contaminants to overflow into the area’s rivers, streams and creeks.
The goal of the Clean Water Plan is to reduce those overflows and make our water cleaner. It is essential for the region’s economic future, its long-term health and the vibrancy of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Western Pennsylvania as a whole.
ALCOSAN has been working with community leaders and municipalities to solve the overflow problem. In 2008, the authority signed a legally binding Consent Decree that called for significant upgrades and changes. However, as planning progressed, it became apparent that components under that agreement would be too expensive for ratepayers. That is why ALCOSAN has been working to negotiate amendments to the Consent Decree for a green-first, affordable Clean Water Plan to comply with local, state and federal regulations.
There are four main approaches for eliminating overflows.
Preventing excess water from entering the sewer system.
This involves use of the latest technology including green infrastructure such as bioswales and rain gardens; lining and repairing pipes to prevent groundwater from seeping into the system; diverting clean streams so they don’t flow directly into sewers; and sewer separation projects. To advance this effort, ALCOSAN established the Green Revitalization of Our Waterways, a multi-year, multi-million-dollar grant program that funds projects that municipalities and sewer authorities might not be able to afford otherwise.
Assuming responsibility for larger sewers.
ALCOSAN would take on the work of operating and maintaining existing multi-municipal trunk sewers and related facilities. ALCOSAN has been conducting closed-circuit television inspections of these sewers and determining what repairs and improvements are necessary. With the addition of more than 200 miles of sewer infrastructure as ALCOSAN’s responsibility, the system will be more efficient and seamless and it will reduce some of the burden on municipalities.
Expanding the wastewater treatment plant.
The current capacity of 250 million gallons per day makes ALCOSAN the largest wastewater treatment system in the region, but greater capacity is needed. The main pump station already has been upgraded and a new vehicle maintenance garage has been built outside the plant gates, making room to expand the treatment operation.
Conducting long-term planning.
Armed with data from the green infrastructure and other flow-reduction projects, ALCOSAN will study what kind of gray infrastructure – pipes, diversion structures, storage tunnels – will be necessary.
The entire effort will cost more than $2 billion over a 20-year period. To cover that cost, rates for families and businesses will increase. In order to make sure that everyone can afford adequate wastewater treatment services, ALCOSAN has established the Clean Water Assistance Fund to help families pay their bill.