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Share of Alcosan project up to $27 million for Penn Hills

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Penn Hills' share of the multibillion-dollar Alcosan overflow reduction project could cost more than originally projected and could raise the average resident's sewer bill to more than $1,100 per year by 2027.

About a year ago, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority officials laid out a $2 billion plan to sharply reduce sewage overflows into waterways during heavy rain.

Alcosan earlier rejected a $3.6 billion plan that would have eliminated those overflows, which federal law requires by 2026, saying the more expensive plan would have tripled or quadrupled sewage rates to an average $1,000 per year.

At the time, Penn Hills municipal engineer Rick Minsterman of Gateway Engineers estimated that the work Penn Hills officials already had done as part of a 1998 federal consent decree could allow them to spend as little as $5 million on upgrades.

But council received a feasibility study at its July meeting that put the projected cost at $27.3 million, according to Gateway Civil Engineer/Project Manager Mike Skinner, who noted the high price tag can be deceiving.

“The thing to understand is, that's today's funds projected out to 2026,” he said.

“You'd be shocked at how much it jumps from today's dollars.”

Skinner said the $27 million “is relative to what (Penn Hills) would've had to build if they had to do all prior work, plus the work related to the overflow project.”

The work would involve upgrades and construction at six points connecting to the Alcosan system.

Penn Hills officials have spent roughly $50 million on sewer construction since receiving a federal consent decree in the 1990s.

Municipal Manager Moe Rayan did not return messages seeking comment.

Minsterman spoke to council at one point about shutting down the Nadine Road pump station and running a line down the road that leads from Lincoln Park to Allegheny River Boulevard.

Skinner said there had been no additional discussion about that.

Minsterman had told council that a new line would cost about $1.9 million, and that would be offset over 30 years by savings on maintenance and equipment costs at the 83-year-old building.

Skinner said the project remains a possibility, but “it's one of those things that we have to keep talking to Alcosan about, because it would create a new point of connection on their line.”

The feasibility study given to council was copied to officials from both Alcosan and state regulatory agencies including the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Health, Alcosan spokeswoman Nancy Barylak said.

“We've worked with all of our communities, and had an idea about a year ago of what they were doing so we could incorporate it into our plan,” she said.

State agencies estimate it will take about six months to work through each community's feasibility study. For an overview of the “Wet Weather Issues” plan, visit Alcosan.org.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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