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Heinz Endowments gives grant to promote water control technology

| Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 5:52 p.m.

The Heinz Endowments gave $31,000 to encourage municipalities to incorporate green technology into their plans to prevent sanitary sewers from overflowing during storms.

Announcement of the grant Thursday came days after the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority asked federal authorities to allow it 18 months to consider adding green infrastructure to its $2 billion plan to prevent excessive rain from entering sewers.

The grant goes to the Congress of Neighboring Communities, or Connect, an initiative based at the University of Pittsburgh that promotes cooperation between the city of Pittsburgh and 36 neighboring municipalities.

Connect will work with 3 Rivers Wet Weather, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the Clean Rivers Campaign to reach out to elected officials in the 83 municipalities the sewer authority Alcosan serves.

“This will help the organizations that have been working on this issue talk to the many communities served by Alcosan. Things are changing and that message about green technology will get out,” said Kathy Risko, Connect's executive director.

Green technology makes use of rain gardens, porous pavement, green roofs and wetlands to stop large amounts of runoff water from entering sanitary systems.

The municipalities Alcosan serves are developing wet-weather plans for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; the plans are due by July 31.

“This is a critical time since the municipal plans are due this summer,” said John Schombert, executive director of 3 Rivers Wet Weather.

“The primary cause of pollutants entering the rivers is wet weather,” said David Y. Miller, founder and adviser to Connect, director of Pitt's Center for Metropolitan Studies and a professor in Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Rain that ends up in sewers also wastes resources, he said.

“The treatment plant has to treat clean water that was made dirty by virtue of getting into the system,” he said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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