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Alcosan working to address DEP concerns about 'wet weather' plan

| Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, 4:00 p.m.

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will work together to address concerns about the authority's $2 billion plan to reduce sewage overflows into rivers, says a letter the Department of Justice sent to Alcosan on Friday.

Alcosan and the EPA could reach agreement by the end of April, the letter stated.

“When the federal government is expressing a willingness to participate in the process, when they don't have to, you have to be encouraged,” Alcosan Executive Director Arletta Scott Williams said.

On Jan. 31, the EPA told Alcosan that its plan to reduce overflows in wet weather does not comply with a court order. Alcosan is under a consent decree to cut the amount of raw sewage that enters rivers from about 9 billion gallons to 4 billion to 5 billion gallons by 2026.

The Justice Department noted possible modifications to the order, though Williams declined to specify those modifications.

She would not release the letter, calling it a “confidential settlement communication” that was sent to Alcosan's attorney. The Justice Department is the EPA's attorney in the matter.

Officials with both federal agencies did not return calls for comment.

The Justice Department asked Alcosan to review the proposed negotiations and suggested meetings with the authority, its municipal customers, the EPA, the state Department of Environmental Protection, and the Allegheny County Health Department. Williams said those meetings are not scheduled.

The letter confirmed willingness to consider “a phased approached to allow for green infrastructure,” according to the statement.

Environmentalists and local officials have asked Alcosan to consider adding canals, rain barrels, porous asphalt and other environmentally friendly infrastructure to the plan.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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