ShareThis Page

Inspection shows several Irwin homes have illegal sewer connection

Tony LaRussa
| 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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.