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Officials to introduce sewer repair resolution

| Wednesday, March 21, 2001, 12:00 p.m.

With 32 municipalities urging Allegheny County Council to take the lead in repairing sewers in the county, two county council members plan to introduce a resolution to do just that.

At tonight's county council meeting, Ron Francis, a Ben Avon Republican, and Mike Crossey, a Mt. Lebanon Democrat, plan to introduce a resolution that would put lobbying for sewer repair funding at the top of the county's legislative priorities.

They plan to announce the resolution at a 4:15 p.m. press conference in the Gold Room of the City County Building, Downtown. The County Council meeting begins at 5 p.m.

In spring 1997, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified 52 municipalities within the Alcosan service area that they were in violation of the Clean Water Act by allowing raw sewage from sanitary sewers to overflow into the county's waterways.

Repairs to the sewers are estimated at $3 billion for both Alcosan - the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority - and its communities.

The resolution by Francis and Crossey is in answer to a movement spearheaded by Ben Avon to ask the county to bring together municipalities affected by the EPA mandate to find a solution to the problem.

In August, Ben Avon passed a resolution asking the county to take action. Since then, 31 other communities have passed similar resolutions.

'My council was looking for a way to demonstrate to county elected officials that municipalities do in fact understand they need to work together and wanted to work together,' said Helen Humphreys Short, the special projects manager for Ben Avon.

The county councilmen's resolution commends Ben Avon and other communities for committing to working together.

'The county recognizes and applauds the willingness of these municipalities to work in a cooperative manner to address the wet weather sewer overflow situation in Allegheny County,' the resolution states.

Short said the county could have a larger voice when it came time for lobbying the state for aid.

'It's far more effective for Allegheny County to lobby both for monies and beneficial legislation as a whole rather than each individual municipality,' Short said.

Francis agreed.

'If we all speak together with one voice at the county level, we're more likely to be heard,' he said.

Crossey said he hopes that something like this could be put into action immediately.

'Instead of washing our hands of (the sewer bill) and saying 'That's your problem,' we can do just the opposite,' he said. 'We're going to take the lead on this. We're going to go before state and federal officials and we're going to put on a united front. We're going to do what we need to do.'

Short said the resolution is a good first step in taking action.

'It's a beginning, but it's an important beginning.'

Maggi Newhouse can be reached at mnewhouse@tribweb.com or at (412) 306-4535.

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