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Unused West View land to become green solution for stormwater runoff

| Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Kelsey Shea | McKnight Journal
This diagram shows the rain garden’s retention pond in blue and bioswales in green. The circles represent trees or other vegetation that will be planted to help absorb water.
Kelsey Shea | For the McKnight Journal
This lot, at the corner of Center and Hawthorne avenues in West View, will become a rain garden. The groundbreaking for the project was April 10, 2014.

A partnership between West View and Alcosan will turn a piece of unused land on Center Avenue into a garden designed to keep 250,000 gallons of rainwater out of sewers.

Borough officials partnered with Alcosan and the county for the $550,000 project, which is designed to be a green solution to problematic storm-water runoff that communities across the region face.

Alcosan officials are exploring rain gardens as an environmentally friendly way to reduce the amount of raw sewage spilling into creeks and rivers during wet weather.

When wet weather hits, storm drains overflow, and storm water mixes with sewage before running into creeks and rivers.

“(Storm water) is a serious problem, and this is a viable solution,” Arletta Scott Williams, executive director of Alcosan, said at the garden's groundbreaking on April 10.

The project will feature two gardens with vegetation chosen to absorb rainwater, a vegetated bioswale, a retention pond and a porous brick pavement system in the 15,000-square-yard lot at the intersection of Center and Hawthorne avenues. Bioswales are landscape elements that remove silt and pollution from rainwater runoff.

Borough engineer Bob Zischkau said only two parking spaces from the adjacent borough-owned parking lot will be lost to the garden, and it will be able to retain water from 1 inch of rainfall.

“I think it's a good idea,” said Dan Kasper, a Center Avenue resident who lives near the lot. “When it rains, it floods like crazy here.”

The project cost will be 55-percent funded by a federal Environmental Protection Agency State and Tribal Assistance Grant, or STAG, secured by Alcosan with assistance from Allegheny County.

Alcosan is under a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Allegheny County Health Department to achieve compliance with the federal Clean Water Act during periods of wet weather.

West View will fund 25 percent of the cost with the help of a $125,000 Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund grant from the county, and the remaining 20 percent will be paid for by Alcosan.

“Green is not a cheap program,” Zischkau said.

The $825,000 STAG will fund West View's rain garden, as well as one in Panther Hollow in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood.

Zischkau said both gardens are “demonstration projects” that will help people in other communities explore whether the gardens are efficient and cost-effective solutions.

“People will be looking at this project to see if it's successful,” he said.

West View Mayor J. R. Henry said he expects construction to begin in the next few weeks.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach her at kshea@tribweb.com or at 724-772-6353.

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