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DEP grants 18-month extension on stormwater control effort

Aaron Aupperlee
| Monday, March 30, 2015, 4:15 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Monday granted Pittsburgh and 79 municipalities an 18-month deadline extension to come up with a plan to reduce stormwater flowing into the sewer system, but the leeway came with conditions.

DEP officials told them that “green” infrastructure such as rain barrels, green roofs, rain gardens and permeable pavement must be part of their plans.

“We're really excited to see the DEP taking a positive approach to green infrastructure and making it a requirement to the extension,” said Jennifer Kennedy, director of the Clean Rivers Campaign.

Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and municipal leaders requested the extension to study using green alternatives to building larger sewers and more storage tanks. Peduto and Fitzgerald said they were pleased the DEP's extension.

Pittsburgh and the municipalities had a deadline Monday to submit plans to the DEP and the Allegheny County Health Department.

Improvements to municipal sewer systems could cost more than $500 million.

The extension does not affect discussions between the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice about a $3.6 billion plan to comply with a federal mandate to reduce wastewater flowing into area rivers and streams during heavy storms. Alcosan and federal authorities are negotiating how to lower the cost of the plan, including using green infrastructure.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, which requested the extension along with Peduto and Fitzgerald, won't have a problem complying with the requirements of the extension, said Melissa Rubin, a spokeswoman.

The authority began developing a green infrastructure strategy three years ago and has 12 pilot projects under way, including work at Saw Mill Run, Washington Boulevard and a rain garden in front of its water treatment plant, Rubin said.

“We're just happy the DEP recognized the importance of green infrastructure,” Rubin said.

Alcosan has proposed spending $1.2 billion on huge underground storage tunnels and $300 million to double the size of its North Side processing plant.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986.

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