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Baldwin Borough ordered to fix sewage problem

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The basement of the more-than-100-year-old home still smells from the 4 feet of sewage that filled the area repeatedly during the last several years, its owner says.

“I feel bad for anybody that's flooded with water. But when it's sewage, there's really not much you can do with the things but get rid of them,” said Bob Ganther, 53.

The 23-year Brentwood Road resident said he has pleaded with Baldwin officials for the last several years to find a way to stop sewage in borough lines from entering his home.

“The water, it saturated into the foundation. It's not drying out, so I have sewage smell throughout my entire house. We tried to have this taken care of. Evidently, this borough is very uncaring and doesn't care what is going on,” Ganther told Baldwin Borough council members last week when he asked once again for officials to close Brentwood Road because of the large number of speeders that cause frustrations for those living on the back street.

After the latest flood at Ganther's home, on July 9 and 10, Baldwin Borough officials placed a camera into the sewer line and determined there was no problem with the system, borough manager John Barrett said.

Fixing the problem in the Streets Run Watershed, where sewage flows from Brentwood into Baldwin, then into Pittsburgh — would require a large-scale multimunicipal project to upsize the pipes, Barrett said. A project of this magnitude likely would not occur until around 2025, he said.

Ganther said the problem needs to be resolved now, and he sought the help of the Allegheny County Health Department's Public Drinking Water & Waste Management Program.

A letter from program chief Geoffrey Butia, sent to Baldwin Borough officials on Sept. 17, stated that the backup of sewage into a residence is a violation of the county health department's rules and regulations for sewage management and that the condition constitutes a health hazard.

The letter gave Baldwin officials 14 days to submit a plan and schedule to the health department outlining a way the borough will provide interim protection to Ganther's home from sewage backup. Options could include a backwater valve or grinder pump, the letter stated. The borough also has 10 days to appeal.

Brentwood Borough, too, which border's Ganther's property, received a letter asking the municipality to review its lines and work with Baldwin to fix the problem.

“We'd like both municipalities to take a look at their lines and see if they're causing this,” health department spokesman Guillermo Cole said.

Situations where sewage overflows and enters a home are not rare, Cole said.

“It does happen,” he said. In those instances, like this, health department officials typically will intervene in an effort to determine the problem and help alleviate it, he said.

Plumbers representing Baldwin, Ganther and the health department all were at the Brentwood Road home on Monday to review the situation, Barrett said.

Borough officials need to get more information from the health department before determining what to do, Barrett said.

He said borough officials do not want to be responsible for future upkeep of a device — such a backflow preventer — once it is installed on private property.

Ganther said he shouldn't have the responsibility of maintaining such a device on his property, either.

“It shouldn't be me,” he said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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