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Environment & Energy

Confluence Borough To Update Sewer System To Keep Raw Sewage Out Of Yough River

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA

The Confluence Borough Municipal Authority has agreed to update part of its sewer infrastructure to prevent untreated sewage from making its way into the Youghiogheny River near Ohiopyle State Park.

The settlement between the authority, the state Department of Environmental Protection and environmental advocacy group PennFuture is the result of a lawsuit filed by PennFuture in 2014.

“The reason groups like PennFuture have to step in on behalf of the environment, the stream, the habitat, recreationalists, fisherman is because the state doesn’t have the will to do it,” said George Jugovic, Vice President of legal affairs with PennFuture. “This is really the Department of Environmental Protection’s responsibility to enforce the law.”

Jugovic said the authority was in violation of the federal Clean Water Act and Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law and Sewage Facilities Act.

“When it rained or when the Yough dam released water and the river rose, it would inundate their collection system with water which would overwhelm the treatment plant and the collection system, resulting in untreated sewage being discharged into the river,” he said.

The agreement requires that the authority construct a new pressurized collection and conveyance system throughout the borough and eliminate two un-permitted sewage outfalls that discharge raw sewage during wet weather. The new system should be fully operational in approximately four years.

Jugovic called the area where the discharges occurred among the “nicest 11 miles of trout fishing in a river in Pennsylvania.” Ohiopyle is among the region’s most popular destinations for outdoor activities such as fishing, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Raw sewage can threaten aquatic plant and animal life and humans who use the river.

Jugovic said the problem of wet weather sewer overflows is widespread in Pennsylvania, and that state government should act to invest in deteriorating public infrastructure.

Confluence Borough is located in Somerset County about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The borough and its municipal authority did not respond to requests for comment. The Pennsylvania DEP declined to comment.