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Alcosan's Wet Weather Plan draws criticism

| Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

A map showing sewage tunnels under the rivers and deep shafts linking them to the area's sewer system prompted renewed criticism of the Allegheny Sanitary Authority's Wet Weather Plan this week.

Grant Oliphant, head of the Heinz Endowments, wrote in a post on the nonprofit's website that Alcosan's plan to press ahead with the “disruptive, expensive and at least partially unnecessary” plan to build massive tunnels under the rivers is “maddening.”

“Why are we letting an uninspired bureaucracy lead us down this unnecessary path, when we can clean up our water by investing in infrastructure that will actually enrich our communities and lives? If we care at all about creating a green and sustainable future in Pittsburgh, we need to have this fight,” Oliphant wrote. “Our region deserves better.”

Jeanne Clark, Alcosan's spokeswoman, said the locations, sizes and number of the so-called drop shafts required have not been determined. Those details and green infrastructure alternatives are the subject of negotiations.

Kevin Acklin, Mayor Bill Peduto's chief of staff, said calls from the community urging environmentally friendly alternatives to the tunnels and shafts have not been heard. Officials from Pittsburgh would like to be part of those negotiations, Acklin said.

Allegheny County Treasurer John Weinstein said the project will have to be a mix of gray and green infrastructure. Rain barrels alone cannot divert the overflowing wastewater. Every driveway in the county would have to be replaced with permeable pavement, he noted.

Alcosan cannot allow the city to join negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice because then the authority would have to open the meetings to all 83 municipalities in the authority's service area, Weinstein said.

Acklin spoke Wednesday at a Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network meeting at which he said Pittsburgh would consider court action to block the Wet Weather Plan and force more green infrastructure.

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

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