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Alcosan seeks more time to come up with green proposal to control overflow into sewer

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority is asking federal authorities for 18 months so it can consider adding “green” infrastructure into a plan to eliminate wet weather overflows from sanitary sewers.

The agency on Tuesday submitted a $2 billion sewer upgrade proposal to the Environmental Protection Agency, a day before the deadline. It includes adding capacity to the Woods Run treatment plant and installing underground transmission tunnels.

Members of Congress, area municipal officials and members of the public asked Alcosan to add green infrastructure to bring down the cost.

“Based on feedback received at our public meetings last fall, we need to study the potential for green infrastructure — locations, methods, responsible party, cost and most importantly the ability to meet regulatory compliance across the service area,” Alcosan Executive Director Arletta Scott Williams said in a prepared statement.

Six months ago, Alcosan announced the $2 billion plan to modernize aging sewers, but full compliance with federal clean water requirements would cost $3.6 billion, the authority said.

But at $3.6 billion, the plan does not meet the EPA‘s standards for affordability. In August, the EPA said it would be willing to consider changes.

Since then, many elected officials — including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and county Controller Chelsa Wagner — have urged Alcosan to adopt green infrastructure.

In October, a letter by Reps. Mike Doyle, Jason Altmire, Mark Critz and Tim Murphy urged Shawn Garvin, the EPA's regional administrator, to work with Alcosan to change parts of the plan.

“Both Philadelphia and Indianapolis have recently implemented green infrastructure into their sewer system overhauls resulting in savings of hundreds of millions of dollars,” their letter said.

In the past, officials at Alcosan have said they do not have the authority to force the 83 communities they serve to install green technology, which makes use of rain gardens, porous pavement, green roofs and wetlands to stop large amounts of runoff water from entering sanitary systems.

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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