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PWSA Accepting Proposals For Pittsburgh Stormwater Master Plan

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority plans to overhaul the city's stormwater management system with a multi-year project, and is currently accepting proposals for the plan.


On today's program: Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is requesting proposals for a stormwater master plan to stop stormwater and sewage overflows in the region; how to deal with election stress; and safety precautions to stay safe while voting in person.

PWSA makes plans to overhaul Pittsburgh’s stormwater systems
(00:00 — 6:28)

For years, stormwater overflows, which lead to sewage overflows, plagued the Pittsburgh area, according to local, state and federal officials. Now thePittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is releasing a Request for Proposals to develop a stormwater master plan for Pittsburgh.

Will Pickering, the executive director of PWSA, says the problems lie with the old sewer structure, which was built in the early 20th century. During a “heavy rain event,” rain water goes to a pipe that also shares sewer flow. If the wastewater treatment plant at the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) is full, the flow is directed to the river.

“If ALCOSAN can’t handle it, it’s either going backward, up into basements, toilets, back up into streets, or it goes to the river,” says Pickering. “So it functions in terms of moving the water, but we obviously know that we do not want an instance where that combined stormwater and sewage is floating, untreated, into our waterways here in Pittsburgh.”

Financing for the project would come in part from PWSA customers paying a “stormwater fee” based on the amount of “hard surface” on their property. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission must still approve the rates.

Pickering did not offer an exact cost estimate for the project, but says it will be “a sizable investment” over a number of years.

“These are things that can be financed over 30 [years] or even longer periods of time,” he says. “So it’s not as if the price tag is going to hit next year. It’s something that can be financed and billed appropriately.”

“Make a plan” to avoid election stress, says Carlow professor
(6:29 — 13:29)

Between the pandemic and the upcoming election, many people are experiencing more stress than usual. This can take a toll on people’s mental and physical health, saysTravis Schermer, an associate professor of Professional Counseling atCarlow University.


“You know, our bodies don’t distinguish or compartmentalize stressors. Physiologically we’re reacting to these, and so there is a cumulative, kind of compounding effects that can occur,” he says.

Schermer recommends for those dealing with acute anxiety leading up to election day, “doing what we can—so putting our vote out there, ensuring that we’re doing our best to have it count whether we’re showing up to the polls or have our mail-in ballot in—and then letting go” and focusing on what you can control.

To avoid “doom scrolling” through a cycle of negative news and to help manage anxiety, Schermer suggests making a plan for Election Day and identifying things that you already enjoy.

“It could be connecting with people that you love and care for, people that boost your mood, as well as engaging with activities that you love,” he says. “All of these things are opportunities for us to engage in things that we already find enjoyable. And so we kind of have a wellness plan in our lives already, it’s just a matter of identifying what those things are that are already working and then bringing them out at times of distress.”

Is it safe to cast your ballot at a polling place?
(13:31 — 17:48)

There are more than 900,000 registered voters in Allegheny County, and despite the pandemic, many will make their ways to the polls tomorrow. The county’s top public health official has assured people that it’s safe to vote in person, but any activity outside the home incurs some level of risk from the coronavirus. 90.5 WESA’sSarah Boden reports on how to stay safe while performing your civic duty.


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. 

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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