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Pitt 'Collaboratory' Looks For Green Water Solutions

Two people with umbrellas cross a street.
Keith Srakocic
Pittsburgh's aging water infrastructure was built during an era that saw more greenspace and fewer intense rainstorms.

On today’s program: State Republicans are gearing up for the fall session; Sen. Pat Toomey's background check proposal reemerged after recent shootings; PA school districts explain how they're using state security grants; Pitt’s Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences is trying to find green infrastructure solutions; and a few television stations in Pittsburgh are changing frequencies.

State GOP leader says elections and pensions top his PA House priorities
(0:00 – 10:07)

The state legislature is still in summer recess, but lawmakers are already looking to the fall. State House majority leader Bryan Cutler says his party is focused on election reform and moving forward with recommendations made by the state pension commission. 

After Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled his $4.5 billion infrastructure plan earlier this year, Cutler announced a task force to investigate infrastructure needs that he says is part of a long-term vision to make the commonwealth more attractive compared to other states.

Cutler says his party isn't interested in increasing the state minimum wage and would rather look at tax forgiveness and workforce development. 

"I think we should be far more focused on getting individuals into those higher paying jobs," he says. "If we can have people earning more than minimum wage, that really should be our goal. Not arbitrarily picking a number as government to be minimum wage." 

Sen. Pat Toomey's 2012 gun control bill resurfaces
(10:10 – 15:53)

After the deadly shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio last weekend, Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey have both called for gun control legislation. Toomey wants to revive a bill he and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin first introduced six years ago after a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The proposed legislation would strengthen background checks and include checks for gun purchases online and at gun shows.

Toomey told 90.5 WESA’s Lucy Perkins that he spoke to both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump about the bill, but did not know whether either would support the proposal. While some, including Gov. Tom Wolf, argue that Congress should be brought back from its August recess to vote on legislation to curb gun violence, Toomey says his bill needs more support before coming to a vote.

PA schools ramp up security with state grants
(17:22 – 22:05)

Last year Pennsylvania set aside tens of millions of dollars for schools to make safety and security upgrades, but left it up to administrators how that money should be distributed. Keystone Crossroads reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent reports on how 231 districts, charter schools and technical schools are spending that cash.

Can data solve Pittsburgh’s water problem?  
(22:11 – 32:32)

From raw sewage overflows to contaminents to flood-causing storms, Western Pennsylvania has more than its fair share of water problems. A group of faculty in the Department of Geology & Environmental Science at the University of Pittsburgh has assembled to study these problems and look for science-based solutions. 

The group, Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Research, Education, and Outreach, was founded by Pitt professors Emily Elliott and Dan Bain. They say the first step is developing a database where new and already completed research can be accessed by policy makers, water practitioners and organizations to inform solutions that address Pittsburgh's aging water infrastructure. 

Pittsburgh TV stations make space on new frequencies
(32:37 – 38:24)

Some television stations will be changing how they broadcast to give more space to high speed internet providers. But viewers shouldn’t worry too much, says Jean Kiddoo, chair of the Federal Communications Commission's Incentive Auction Task Force. She tells The Confluence that the content on stations will not change, but viewers who watch television with an antenna will need to rescan their TVs. The FCC has instructions on its website, and viewers can call 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) between 8 a.m. and 1 a.m. Eastern, seven days a week.

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
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