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Lower Burrell sewer projects will cost millions

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Lower Burrell officials on Tuesday reviewed the city's share of sewer work that may be needed to comply with state and federal mandates to prevent untreated sewage from reaching the Allegheny River.

That share, officials believe, will be millions of dollars.

The Municipal Sanitary Authority of New Kensington in September is scheduled to submit a long-term control plan to the state Department of Environmental Protection on how it will contain and treat at least 85 percent of the sewage in the system.

That plan will include a combination of upgrades at the New Kensington treatment plant and improvements within the member communities, which include Arnold, Lower Burrell and small portions of Plum and Allegheny Township in addition to New Kensington.

George Adda, a board member for the Lower Burrell Municipal Authority and the New Kensington sewer authority, said the New Kensington board anticipates receiving the draft plan from engineering firm Hatch Mott MacDonald in August.

Lower Burrell Mayor Don Kinosz said the city will need to be prepared to commit to millions of dollars worth of sewer improvements.

Kinosz said Lower Burrell's focus will continue to be preventing stormwater from infiltrating the sewer system.

“If you don't take it out, you have to treat it,” Kinosz said.

The city's municipal authority has prepared a tentative, prioritized list of projects over the next 20 years that, if all are deemed necessary, could cost $12.5 million.

That's in addition to the city's projected $4 million share of plant upgrades and the $3.5 million spent in the past year to extend sewers up Wildlife Lodge Road to Route 780, replace a main sewer line along Route 780 and eliminate three outdated pumping stations.

However, city officials said their hope is the improvements they propose to complete in the first seven years of the plan will reduce the amount of sewage the city contributes to the system enough that the later, more expensive projects won't be required.

If the estimated $2.2 million worth of projects planned in the early years are effective, the city may be able to avoid, delay or reduce the remaining $10 million in work.

Public Works Foreman Scott Johnson said they'd particularly like to avoid installing retention tanks near Kinloch and Flyers Field, which combined could cost $6.5 million.

Johnson said building the tanks, which would store sewage during heavy rains until flow drops and the treatment plant can handle the sewage, would amount to “waving white flags” because the city can't reduce stormwater any further.

Johnson pointed to projects the city has tackled and will continue to tackle, including sealing manhole covers, identifying and repairing cracks or leaking joints in waterlines, and working with residents to ensure downspouts and drains are not connected to the sewer system.

Improvements have reduced the flow by almost 2 million gallons per day during wet weather. The next seven years' worth of improvements could reduce the flow by a similar amount.

Streets with known infiltration problems that are targeted for improvements include Alder, Claremont, Illinois, Kenmont, Rodgers, Widmer and Westbrook.

Officials believe sewer flow during rainstorms can be reduced by as much as 750,000 gallons per day if an estimated 50 residents disconnect downspouts that are illegally tapped into the system.

The authority nearly a decade ago was able to perform smoke and/or dye tests on about 95 percent of residences in the city and eliminated many illegal connections. Plus, the city now requires a for-sale home to be tested and any problems addressed before it can change hands.

However, about 100 homeowners did not respond to requests to let city workers perform the free tests. Officials intend to reach out again to those residents and, if necessary, search for legal means to inspect the private systems if they are likely to be contributing excess stormwater.

Kinosz said he expected the authority and city council to approve their part of the plan in September.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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