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Irwin council approves sewer line inspection

Tony LaRussa
| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 3:21 p.m.

Within the next several weeks, a contractor will begin using special cameras that snake through Irwin's sanitary-sewer lines hunting for spots where storm water can seep in.

“Municipalities are mandated to take steps to prevent storm water from getting into the (sanitary) sewer lines,” said Lucien Bove, the borough's engineer.

“Conducting a detailed inspection of our lines is part of complying with that requirement.”

Council recently awarded a $98,225 contract to State Pipe Service Inc. of Cranberry to conduct the sewer-line inspections, which are expected to begin in the next several weeks.

Under a 2012 federal consent agreement between the state Department of Environmental Resources and the Western Westmoreland Municipal Authority, which serves Irwin, steps must be taken to keep sewage out of waterways.

This typically occurs during heavy rainfalls or when snow and ice melt rapidly, Bove said.

“As the storm water seeps into cracks or joints in the sanitary lines, it overburdens sewer-treatment plants and results in the release of untreated sewage into waterways,” he said.

In January, Irwin 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 sewer plant in Irwin treats about 4.5 million gallons of sewage a day, said Kevin P. Fisher, general manager of the WWMA.

The new tank will be able to hold up to 5.2 million gallons of sewage until it can be processed at the plant.

Five years ago, Irwin borrowed about $17 million from a state low-interest loan program to eliminate a major cause of the overflows, said Jim Halfhill, the borough's public-works director.

“Like a lot of older communities, we had a single system that handled storm water and sewage,” he said.

“So we borrowed the money to create separate systems.”

The loan money will be used to pay for the sewer-line inspections, Halfhill said.

In addition to looking for cracks in the sanitary lines or openings where the pipes are connected, the inspectors will be searching for homes where the downspouts from roofs are tied into the sanitary lines, which is illegal.

“They will conduct dye tests to verify that a downspout goes into the sanitary sewer, and if it is, residents will be required to disconnect it,” said Bove, adding the residents also will be responsible for replacing broken lateral lines that run from their homes to the sewer system.

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