Allegheny County Executive Fitzgerald tells Alcosan: Rewrite runoff plan
The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority should rewrite a $2 billion plan for keeping sewage runoff out of area waterways to include less infrastructure and more “green” solutions, county Executive Rich Fitzgerald said on Friday.
Fitzgerald joined state Sen. Jim Ferlo during a luncheon attended by about 100 water experts and public officials in calling on Alcosan to include more rain barrels, rain collection gardens and permeable roads and sidewalks along with bigger sewer pipes and holding tanks in its federally mandated response plan.
Alcosan said reworking the plan would be impossible to complete in the three months left to submit it to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Quite frankly, we are at the 11th hour,” said Alcosan spokeswoman Nancy Barylak. “What we have is a federal court order that says we have to have this plan in by Jan. 23. If we do not meet this court order, what happens is we start to incur penalties and fines.”
Fitzgerald said he would ask Alcosan to negotiate an extension with EPA. He said he would also lead an effort to lobby Alcosan's 83 member communities to invest in more green solutions.
“I think there's an opportunity that (EPA) would be willing to renegotiate if we show them we have a real plan with real solutions,” Fitzgerald said. “The public's got to be a part of this. My job as an elected official is to get all the players together and work together on a plan.”
EPA spokesman David Sternberg said he could not comment on whether the agency would grant Alcosan an extension.
Allegheny County and other sewer authorities across the state must upgrade treatment systems to comply with a federal order for reducing overflows of raw sewage into waterways during heavy rain. Alcosan must reduce its overflows by 9 billion gallons annually.
The plan includes bigger sewer pipes, larger treatment capacities and installation of large holding tunnels under the rivers — all known as gray infrastructure.
Barylak said Alcosan has no legal authority to force municipalities to include green solutions in their plans.
Municipalities like Etna, which has green storm-water reduction programs in its downtown and residential areas, would do so if they had the cash, borough manager Mary Ellen Rammage said.
“We are interested in as much green as we can incorporate,” she said.
Ferlo, D-Lawrenceville, paid for the luncheon through his taxpayer-funded Senate account to bring together interested parties to discuss alternatives to the Alcosan plan. He estimated the tab at about $2,000.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.