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Residents near Heidelberg park oppose sewage holding tanks

| Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010

Free sodas did little to soften the sales pitch from the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority to about 50 people gathered Monday in Heidelberg's fire hall.

Many attended to oppose Alcosan's proposal to bury a 5 million- to 9 million-gallon sewage overflow tank under four acres next to Heidelberg Park. The park covers two acres and is a picnic spot along Chartiers Creek.

"I don't care what you say to dissuade people, they're going to think that millions of gallons of sewage is going to have a smell," said Heidelberg Mayor Kenneth LaSota, a geology professor at Robert Morris University.

He presented Alcosan officials with a petition of 116 signatures of people who oppose the holding tanks.

LaSota said Heidelberg -- covering a quarter square mile with a population of 1,200 -- is too small to be tapped as a sewage holding station for a large swath of Allegheny County along Chartiers Creek.

"If it happens, I would not let my kid go in the park," said Kim Kwasniewski, an administrative assistant who has a 5-year-old son, Hogan.

She said she's worried the smell could waft over the Industry Way park.

The concrete chamber would be buried about 20 feet deep and likely be equipped with vents and activated carbon to absorb any odors, said Daniel Lockard, the authority's manager of capital projects.

Nancy Barylak, an Alcosan spokeswoman, said she couldn't guarantee there wouldn't be an odor, but she noted that complaints about odors near its Brighton Heights treatment plant are rare.

Heidelberg's council must approve Alcosan's proposal before the tank could be installed, said manager Joe Kauer.

The Heidelberg holding tank represents a roughly $80 million chunk of an elaborate $1 billion "Wet Weather Plan" designed to comply with a federal decree to stop heavy stormwaters from sweeping raw sewage into Allegheny County waterways by 2026.

An estimated 800 million gallons of storm water mixed with sewage flows into Chartiers Creek each year, Lockard said.

Even if it is approved, work on the Heidelberg holding tank wouldn't begin until 2017, Barylak said. The authority must submit its stormwater plan to state and federal officials by January 2013.

Money to pay for $1 billion in sewage system improvements will have to come from Alcosan's customers, Barylak said.

Alcosan officials are scheduled to hold nine meetings between Oct. 18 and Nov. 10 to tell residents about plans for other holding tanks and sewage overflow prevention efforts elsewhere in the county.

Learn more

For more information, visit http://www.alcosan.org/Portals/0/PDFs/FallMeetings_2010.pdf

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