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Fox Chapel residents to pay more for sewage service

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Residential sewage rates in Fox Chapel will rise this year to pay for required fixes to the system.

Service line charges will climb from $15 to $60 per quarter; consumption charges will be $4.66 per 1,000 gallons per quarter, up from $2.35.

Council approved the jump to pay for upgrades required by a consent decree from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Allegheny County Health Department.

“The increase directly matches what we need to do to fix our lines,” Borough Manager Gary Koehler said.

The cost to upgrade the borough's system, made primarily of clay pipe, is $10.7 million.

A consent decree issued in 2004 to municipalities served by Alcosan is intended to reduce the amount of storm water runoff into sewer systems and overflows of sewage into rivers and streams.

Koehler said the deadline for upgrades is in five years, but council wants the work to begin now.

“We want to get it done before the billion-dollar fixes that Alcosan needs, because there will be a drain on resources when that starts,” he said.

Crews already have analyzed the sanitary sewer system and determined that because of the age of the lines — 45 to 100 years — and the clay material, groundwater continues to enter the system and cause overflows into the Allegheny River.

“We need to repair or replace the majority of the system,” Koehler said.

Aside from deteriorating clay, sections of cast iron and concrete are undersized for current flow conditions.

“There are two pieces of the project — the trunk and the branches,” Koehler said.

The branch lines are broken or leaking and need to be repaired. Contractors are focusing on that now, which involves about 2.6 miles of pipe.

“The trunk is too small and needs to be upsized,” Koehler said. That work, which includes 2.5 miles of sewer main, could begin in about three years.

Once the crumbled lines are relined or replaced, crews will install a meter where “the branches meet the trunk,” Koehler said. “We'll be able to see how the fixes have reduced flow to the trunk and determine what size we need to make it.”

Koehler said hundreds of manholes also will be repaired or replaced.

Residents can find ways to lower the consumption portion of their new bill, Koehler said, by installing efficient or low-flow fixtures.

“It's really sort of good news for us,” he said. “We initially thought it would cost more for the work.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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