Murrysville businesses hope sewer fixes coming soon
By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
For 15 days this summer, the stink of raw sewage was so bad that employees at Countyline Collision wore respirators while the local sanitary authority discharged millions of gallons of wastewater into Turtle Creek.
“It would run into the creek for 10 hours a day,” said Scott Funk, assistant manager at the Murrysville auto-body shop located near Turtle Creek and its tributaries.
“It ain't right — nobody should have to smell that.”
Several Murrysville businesses want the Franklin Township Municipal Sanitary Authority to clean up its act — and its messes. According to state Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, records, the authority discharged nearly 29 million gallons of sewage wastewater into Turtle Creek between July 30 and Sept. 17 of this year.
Since 2011, sanitary-authority manager Jim Brucker has assured state officials he would replace its force main — a sewage line that takes waste from the main pump station to the sewage treatment plant for processing. In November 2012, state officials mandated that project be completed in early 2014.
Throughout this past summer, 20-foot segments of pipe in the force main often broke. Each time that happened, Brucker shut down the system and had two options — discharge sewage into Turtle Creek or have sewage back up into homes and businesses.
Each time, the authority discharged sewage into the creek. On those days, between 1 million and just over 3 million gallons of waste went into the creek, state documents show.
That caused a lot of trouble at Countyline Collisions, manager Ed Prosser said. He has worked there for 15 years and said he has seen problems with the sewer lines most of that time.
“I just want it fixed already,” Prosser said. “I don't want to have to deal with this.”
The smell of sewage isn't the only problem.
Luanne O'Brien, owner of Integral Ballroom along Route 22, said she regularly sees a geyser of wastewater shooting from the property behind her dance studio.
“It shoots 3 feet in the air from the manhole cover,” O'Brien said. “At first I thought it was a water-main break. They need to make that line bigger.”
O'Brien said she hasn't smelled sewage when the manhole has erupted. She wants the authority to fix its problems.
Those problems are serious, state officials said.
“One million gallons of sewage is a significant amount of sewage,” DEP spokesman John Poister said. “Fortunately, these are not continuous outflows of sewage which would make the problem very serious. The department considers any unauthorized release of sewage to be significant and should be addressed as readily as possible.”
Brucker has said he hopes to begin the project in early 2014, but plans are being held up by an inability to obtain the rights to build a sewer line under a 2-mile stretch of the Turtle Creek Railroad.
The authority's issues were a problem for developer Herky Pollock, whose new Blue Spruce Shoppes opened last month. As he began to develop the 72,000-square-foot shopping plaza, Pollock learned there were major problems with overflows when it rained.
“We can't even use a basic gravity system. We can't get what we bargained for,” he said. “The current system doesn't have the capacity to deal with any further use on the main.”
The grinder pumps the authority installed — which pump the sewage instead of relying on gravity to carry it away — will stop manholes from overflowing and sewage leaks from occurring in his development.
At Countyline Collision, Funk said every time a leak does occur, his toilets become inoperable.
“It sounds like a big waterfall,” Funk said. “You can just hear the roar.”
Like other businesspeople in the area, Funk wants a solution to a problem he can trace back at least seven years.
“They're destroying this place,” Funk said.
Brucker, who also is president of the Turtle Creek Watershed Association, said there has been no harm to the wildlife and fish in Turtle Creek from the discharge.
Despite that, Funk said, he worries about the chemicals going into the creek — both from the sewage and from what workers use to clean his parking lot.
“The chemicals in there are hazardous to humans,” Funk said. “All of the wildlife here has pretty much so disappeared. We used to have a mink in the spring, herrings and kingfish (in Haymaker Run). My guess is it killed them all.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627.
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