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Municipal authority buys land from Irwin

| Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, 6:48 p.m.

When heavy rainstorms hit the region, one thing is nearly certain to happen — raw sewage from overburdened treatment plants will end up in local waterways.

To help address the problem, Irwin council has agreed to sell nearly 10 acres the borough owns along Ridinger Park Road across from the sewage treatment plant so the Western Westmoreland Municipal Authority, or WWMA, can build a tank to hold the mixture of storm water and sewage until it can be treated properly.

The requirement to keep sewage out of waterways is part of a 2012 consent agreement between the WWMA and the state Department of Environmental Resources, said Kevin P. Fisher, general manager of the WWMA.

“In simple terms, we are required to eliminate the overloads that occur in our system during heavy storms that result in sewage flowing into Brush Creek,” Fisher said.

The sewer plant in Irwin treats about 4.5 million gallons of sewage a day, Fisher said. The new tank will be able to hold up to 5.2 million gallons of sewage until it can be processed at the plant.

Between 10 and 20 sanitary-system overflows happen every year at WWMA's treatment plants.

Fisher said there is no timeline or cost estimate for when the tank in Irwin will be built or how much it will cost.

“We're in the very early stages of this particular project,” said Fisher, adding that work likely won't begin until 2015.

Storm water “infiltrates” into the sanitary sewer system during a heavy storm through cracks in the lines and downspouts that have been connected to sewer lines, Fisher said.

Irwin officials now require property owners to disconnect the downspouts when a home is sold, borough manager Mary Benko said.

“This year, I'm going to propose to council that we begin a storm-water project to investigate the condition of our sewer lines and possibly try to look at into the extent of illegal downspouts connected to the lines,” she said.

Benko said council has not yet discussed how it might use the $100,000 it will get from selling the land.

“They (council) probably won't start talking about that until we get the money,” she said.

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626 or at tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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