Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Environment & Energy

$5 M State Loan to Ease Sewer Overflows in Hill District & South Side

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.

“About 75 percent of ours is combined,” said Good.  “So you get the sewage and rain in the same pipe, so if you get a heavy rain you can heavy problems like backups and overflow.  To the extent that the rainwater can be removed and put into a separate line and sent directly to a river, you’re going to reduce the incidence of flooding, reduce the incidence of backups, and you’re going to reduce the load on the main ALCOSAN treatment plant.”

According to Good, the two projects that will be covered by the loan have been on the drawing board “for a number of years” and are intended to separate sewage and storm water lines.

He says $2.7 million will be used to install 24 dedicated storm sewers, most of them in the South Side “where there are storm drains that lead directly into the sanitary line.  So those drains will be disconnected and new ones will be put in and then lines connected to nearby storm lines to get the rainwater out of the sanitary system.”

The second project is to separate the lines on Center Avenue in the Hill District by building a dedicated storm sewer that will also be able to handle future flows from planned developments in that area.

“This will not only manage rain flows but it should in the short term help alleviate some of the flooding that occurs every once in awhile on Fifth and Forbes.  It will also support eventually the project planned for the Lower Hill (old Civic Arena site).”

All communities in Allegheny County are under a federal mandate to reduce sewer overflows by disconnecting storm flows that go into sanitary pipes.

“We have a lot of competing needs in our water and sewer systems.  We have the water plant; we have the sewer system; we have the drinking water system; we have backups; we have basement flooding. So over the years we’ve been prioritizing projects and this is a very important project, Good said.

The loan is for 20 years at a one percent interest rate. Good said requests for bids will go out later this year with construction to start in the Spring and completed by the end of 2014.