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Inspection shows several Irwin homes have illegal sewer connection

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A pilot program in Irwin to ferret out sources of storm water that burden the sanitary sewers found that nearly half the homes inspected so far have illegal connections to the system, according to borough officials.

Property owners who have roof downspouts, driveway and patio drains or basement sump pumps connected to the sanitary system will be responsible for disconnecting them, said Lucien Bove, the borough's engineer.

“In many cases, these connections were made years ago, often before people bought their homes,” Bove said.

“But now they have to be disconnected from the (sanitary) sewer system.”

The requirement is part of a 2012 federal consent agreement between the state Department of Environmental Resources and the Western Westmoreland Municipal Authority, which serves Irwin.

The agreement requires municipalities to take steps to keep sewage out of waterways.

Water that seeps into Irwin's sanitary sewer lines during storms or when snow and ice melts quickly overburdens WWMA's sewage-treatment plants and results in the release of untreated sewage into Brush Creek, according to Kevin P. Fisher, the authority's general manager.

Inspecting the lines is one of the ways the borough is complying with the consent agreement.

Earlier this year, the borough awarded a $98,225 contract to State Pipe Service Inc. of Cranberry to inspect about 30,000-linear feet of sanitary sewer lines and 200 manholes.

The contract calls for the lateral lines leading from 194 homes to the main sewer main sewer lines in the northeastern part of the borough to be inspected using the cameras, Bove said.

Of the 54 homes that have been inspected so far, 25 had illegal connections, he said.

After inspectors find what they believe is an illegal connection, it is verified by pouring dye into the downspout system to see if it ends up in the sanitary sewer lines, Bove said.

Eventually, all borough properties will be checked, he said.

Letters will be sent to property owners with illegal connections informing them of their responsibility to correct the problem.

“We're trying to work with property owners by giving them a reasonable amount of time to take corrective action,” he said. “But they will eventually have to do the work.”

The borough will give residents 90 days after they are notified to correct the problem, said Mary Benko, the borough manager.

After the 90 days are up, borough officials will review the properties that have not taken steps to correct the problem to determine whether additional action is warranted, she said. Property owners who fail to comply could face fines, penalties or have a lien placed on their property, she said.

By law, a property cannot be sold unless the illegal connections are removed, Bove said.

Five years ago, the borough took a major step toward reducing so-called storm-water infiltration by spending about $7.6 million to split its combined sanitary- and storm-water lines into two separate systems.

The borough received about $1.6 million in grants for that project and paid for the remainder with about $6 million borrowed through a low-interest loan program offered by the state.

Rates were raised to repay the loan and cover the cost of the inspection program that is currently underway.

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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