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Authority to be fined for sewage discharges into Allegheny River

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Saturday, March 29, 2014, 12:16 a.m.
 

The Allegheny Valley Joint Sewage Authority will be fined for sewage discharges into the Allegheny River that occurred between 2010 and 2012 at its treatment plant in Harmar, a state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said on Friday.

The agency and the authority are negotiating a consent order and agreement, DEP spokesman John Poister said. The agency is expected to file a response next week.

The amount of the fine has not yet been determined, Poister said. The agreement is nearing finalization.

The violations relate to discharges of raw or inadequately treated material into the river, Allegheny County Health Department spokesman Guillermo Cole said.

The authority's treatment facility serves Cheswick, Harmar, Springdale and Springdale Township.

Poister said there were 39 instances between 2010 and 2012 when discharge didn't meet state standards. Of those, 20 were for total suspended solids in the water, and nine involved fecal matter.

The authority's board recently discussed the violations in a meeting closed to the public. At that time, plant Manager Richard Chiavetta claimed there was nothing to say about it, calling it a “point of discussion” for the board.

Chiavetta on Friday referred questions to the authority's environmental attorney, Kevin Garber. Garber said the issue first arose in spring 2013.

“We've been discussing (the agreement) and have had meetings and exchanged thoughts and comments on the document. Because it's still under investigation, I can't really comment on what it says or where it will come out,” Garber said.

Garber said the authority believes not all of the reported violations were true violations; rather, some may be due to inaccurate readings of the flow coming from the plant. To fix that, the physical devices used to measure the flow, called “weirs,” have been moved to get more accurate readings, he said.

The authority has no recent violations, Poister said.

The consent order and agreement will address the proper monitoring of the system and the prevention of future effluent violations, Poister said.

Language on the development and implementation of a wet weather operations plan will be included in the agreement, Poister said.

During heavy rains, sewage treatment plants can be overwhelmed by flow from combined sanitary and storm sewers, resulting in untreated sewage being released into waterways. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is requiring elimination of at least 80 percent of such combined sewage overflows in this region, Poister said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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