Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority expects to exit crisis mode in the next couple of years. Officials say decades of disinvestment weakened the system, and it’s taken time to stabilize. But with several years of investment and long-range planning behind them, PWSA expects to be able to spend more time on green and stormwater infrastructure. That could mean a new fee for ratepayers.
Flooding due to stormwater is more difficult to manage than water and sewage because it’s unpredictable, said PWSA executive director Bob Weimar. But the Pittsburgh region must meet federal regulations that prohibit combined sewer overflows, when stormwater overwhelms sewers and sends untreated sewage into the rivers.
To come into compliance will require collaboration between the city, PWSA, and building owners, said Weimar.
“We've certainly got a lot to do to create an approach that will be sustainable and will be cost effective and will address the bulk of the major flooding problems in the region,” he said.
Weimar stressed that PWSA needs to be very thoughtful in weighing infrastructure needs against what users can afford to pay for it.
“The real key to this is trying to create a balance between what we can afford, what can the public ultimately accept as a fee, and what we need to accomplish to mitigate the worst problems that we've that we face,” he said.
Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission oversees PWSA. The two agencies are already working together to look at a stormwater fee, but before it’s implemented, it must first go through the PUC’s public approval process.