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Worst drainage issues in Pittsburgh pinpointed

Bob Bauder
| Friday, March 2, 2012, 12:00 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority promised swift action to resolve problems with storm sewers in East End neighborhoods identified in a report released on Thursday.

The report from City Councilman Bill Peduto of Point Breeze identified 16 stormwater catch basins either clogged with debris or blocked by asphalt from street paving. It also found 20 areas where Peduto suspects sewer pipes are damaged or blocked.

"We will look at and inspect ... and begin to make repairs immediately," authority spokeswoman Melissa Rubin said.

She did not know how much the repairs would cost but said money for them would come from the authority's $93 million operating budget.

Flash flooding that killed four people on Washington Boulevard in August and complaints from residents and businesses about sewers backing up into their basements after heavy rains prompted the review.

Christina Smith, 56, who lives on Maryland Avenue in Shadyside -- one of the most flood-prone streets, according to the report -- said her basement has been inundated three times in five years.

"It's dirty and stinky, and it's just an inconvenience to take care of," she said. "I have to say, though, that some of our neighbors were a lot worse off than we were."

Peduto said his office worked with residents, businesses and Three Rivers Wet Weather during the past six months to pinpoint areas prone to flooding and determine the cause.

Last summer's flooding prompted Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the PWSA to begin looking at all city watersheds for problems and possible solutions. The city will hire a consultant within the next few weeks to study the watersheds, Ravenstahl spokeswoman Joanna Doven said.

In addition, PennDOT is erecting gates to block traffic on Washington Boulevard during heavy rain. Spokesman Jim Struzzi said the agency plans to have the gates working by spring.

Councilman Patrick Dowd, who serves on PWSA's board, said Pittsburgh has the same problems with storm sewers as scores of communities across Western Pennsylvania.

"Basically, our system has too much flow for the capacity of the pipes," he said. "In order to do the things that (Peduto's) asking for, and that my constituents want as well, we need to find ways to fund this pipe replacement, and there's only so much money available."

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