Penn Hills to spend nearly $900K on sewer repairs this summer
Penn Hills Council awarded three separate contracts totaling nearly $900,000 recently for sewage repairs to take place throughout the municipality for the next three months.
The work involves about two miles of the system and includes replacing 41 sections of sewer lines, lining 49 sections and cleaning a pipe that officials expect to improve outflow and reduce sewer overflows at a pump station on Jade Drive.
There are 12 pump stations in Penn Hills, said Water Pollution Control Department Director Tom O'Grady.
“We have 90 days to complete the projects,” O'Grady said. He said the work will begin in late June.
O'Grady said he does not expect sewer service to be interrupted for more than eight hours when crews work on lining the 49 sections of pipes. He does not expect other work to interrupt sewage.
“Residents will be notified well in advance,” he said. “When doing lining, we ask people not to use their service for six to eight hours before.”
Most of the work, which will be done on sections of sewer lines between manholes, will happen in the Sandy Creek, Rosedale and Penn Ridge neighborhoods, according to a list of streets provided by O'Grady. Other areas include Nadine, Hunter Heights, Universal, Frankstown Estates, Crescent Hills and Alcoma Plan.
The work is part of ongoing sewer repairs the municipality started over a decade ago when it was placed under a criminal consent decree by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Protection to fix the sewer system.
The consent decree has since been lifted, but the county still remains under a consent agreement with the DEP to continue upgrading its sewage system, O'Grady said. Most sewer lines, he said, were installed in the 1950s and 60s and made of clay. Some of the clay pipes have weakened.
“Over time they develop cracks and roots start to grow in them,” O'Grady said. Some, he said, need to be replaced, while others only need to be lined, which is a cheaper solution than replacing them.
Penn Hills, with approximately 250 miles of underground sewer lines, has paid $40 million since 2010 to fix its sewage system, said Manager Moe Rayan.
The municipality budgeted about $1.5 million for sewage repairs in 2018.
Penn Hills' sewage rates increased in 2017 when residents' monthly sewer service rate doubled to $30 and another $3.54 was added to the charge for every 1,000 gallons of water used.
Charges for service from the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority have risen steadily since 2009, when residents paid $4.37 per 1,000 gallons used. Since then Alcosan rates have more than doubled, bringing charges up to $7.42 per 1,000 gallons used.
Penn Hills officials have no control over the rates charged by Alcosan. In all, Penn Hills residents pay a total of $18.76 per 1,000 gallons used — a 5 percent increase since 2017.
The average person uses anywhere from 2,400 to 3,000 gallons of water per month, according to the United States Geological Survey.