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From Flooding to Meadows, Pitt Officials Begin Solving Storm Water Overflow Issues

Jessica Nath
90.5 WESA

Instead of overflowing sewer systems and creating flooding, a new project will take rain water and use it to maintain a newly planted meadow in Schenley Park.

Officials from the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, ALCOSAN and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) announced Thursday the construction of two green rain water management projects in the park in Oakland.

In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a consent decree to the Pittsburgh region to eliminate sewage contamination entering local rivers and streams.

“It’s a huge issue, it’s a $3.6 billion issue,” Tim Prevost, ALCOSAN Manager of Wet Weather Programs, said. “So green infrastructure is going to be one component to address that issue, and a lot of work is going to take place over the next several years to address storm water overflows into the river.”

The first project is an infiltration trench that will be installed along Beacon St. and Bartlett St. to catch rain water.

According to Prevost, the project takes storm water that’s coming off of Beacon St. and diverts it to a new meadow being planted in the park instead of to the combined sewer system.

The meadow will consist of plants such as Black-eyed Susans and Little Bluestems that will not only help with the infiltration of an estimated 600,000 gallons of rain water, but will also create a habitat for wildlife.

Kevin Acklin, chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto, said they have been focused on a “green solution” to the storm water overflow issue.

“If we’re forced to spend billions of dollars to address this problem to make sure out rivers aren’t being polluted and we’re not saddling this problem for future generations of Pittsburgh, we’d like to focus on doing so in a green manner,” Acklin said. “And that means building out and sun-lighting some of these ways to capture storm water in the city.”

The second project involves the creation of retentive grading and bumps on the Bob O’Connor Golf Course.

The graded areas aim to slow the water as it hits the bumps, which will have a special soil mix.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy estimates that this will capture another 1.12 million gallons of rain water a year.

Combined, the two projects cost $750,000 and will keep an estimated 1.7 million gallons of storm water and run-off from entering the sewer system and wetlands, Panther Hollow Lake, Four Mile Run and the Monongahela River.

“Our sewer systems are outdated, they were actually designed to overflow when they couldn’t handle anymore storm water and it dumped untreated sewage into our local waterways,” U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D – PA – 14) said. “Well, this is something we’re simply not willing to tolerate anymore.”

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.