Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle was given a Clean Water Star Award from the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority on Monday for his continued efforts to help move infrastructure improvements forward.
A 2008 consent decree between ALCOSAN, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others requires the authority to stop the overflow of sewage into area rivers during wet weather.
At the time, Doyle said there could be allotments made in the federal budget and other bills, but that’s no longer the case.
“Back then, when it was initially signed, Congress had budgets,” said Doyle. “We haven’t had one for six years. Legislators were able to earmark federal dollars to local projects of merit, that practice has been discontinued.”
But Doyle said that hasn’t stopped federal, state and local officials from working together to secure funding from other sources.
“What we’re continuing to do is work within the agencies we can, and so EPA has certain grant programs for green infrastructure,” he said. “We’re talking about a multi-billion dollar project, so we’re going to have to stretch that timeline out a little bit.”
ALCOSAN has until 2026 to upgrade systems, and the plan calls for doing so through a mixture of gray and green infrastructure. Doyle said one of the challenges is ensuring the upgrades are made without significantly increasing customer rates, but said the long-term benefits will boost the region.
“When we clean up our environment it’s not only good for our region’s health, but it’s also good for our economy,” Doyle said. “People want to live in an area where there’s a good environment and a good quality of life, we believe it attracts people and businesses to Pittsburgh.”
ALCOSAN treats wastewater for 83 municipalities including Pittsburgh. The other five recipients of the inaugural Clean Water Star Awards were Mary Ellen Ramage, Etna Borough Manager; farmers Rick Young and John Dutton; Phipps Conservatory Center for Sustainable Landscapes; the 70 students from South Fayette and North Allegheny Intermediate high schools running the Global Passport Project; and Willard Jefferson, ALCOSAN’s Environmental Audit Administrator.