Sewer system testing complete
Testing of the second largest sewer system in Allegheny County has been completed, but officials must sift through a mountain of data before the communities involved can determine what repairs will have to be made.
The Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport, which handles sewage treatment for 10 suburban communities, spent $140,000 over the past year to measure the combined flows of sewer and rainwater in those townships and boroughs.
All the communities in Allegheny County, many of which have outdated and ineffective sewer systems, are being ordered to fix their systems by 2007 or face fines from the federal government.
Joe Rost, superintendent of the McKeesport authority, said officials hope to eventually reduce the amount of raw sewage that flows into the Youghiogheny and Monongahela rivers.
Because the storm drains in some communities are connected to the sewer system, heavy rains can overload the system, resulting in millions of gallons of rainwater mixed with raw sewage pouring into those rivers.
But the results of the McKeesport system flow monitoring amount to at least 30 binders of information that is unintelligible to anyone but engineers well-schooled in looking at such data, Rost said.
Rost said that after engineers study the information, they will send a summary to community leaders in the affected boroughs so they can identify the places in their sewer systems where repairs or changes might have to be made.
One option might be that communities in the system will have to build massive storage tanks to aid overloaded sections of the system.
In a December 2000 report to the state's Department of Environmental Protection, the authority estimated that the three million-gallon storage tanks would cost $3 million each to construct.
But Rost said rate payers should not assume that the option of building the tanks will be necessary.
He said McKeesport, White Oak and North Versailles — three of the larger communities in the system — have taken measures to reduce the amount of rain water entering their sewer lines, which has greatly reduced the amount of sewage going into the rivers.
Wayne Washowich, president of White Oak Borough Council, said his borough is planning the last part of a three-phase project to reduce the amount of rain water getting into sewer lines.
This next phase, which is expected to cost at least $100,000, will disconnect the downspouts and driveway drains of about 40 homes from the sewer system.
Washowich said homes that do not have adequate drainage will be given sump pumps to help them remove rainwater from their properties.
Washowich said that work is expected to be completed by early fall. He said measurements by White Oak's engineers, the Eads Group, indicate that White Oak has substantially reduced the amount of rain water that is entering sewer lines.
Systemwide, 58.7 million gallons of combined raw sewage overflows poured into the Youghiogheny River from the McKeesport system in 1999, Rost said. He said there were 61 days of sewage overflow in that year.
In 2000, through improvements to the system and varying degrees of rainfall, 10.7 million gallons were spilled in the Yough on 27 days.
Rost estimated that further improvements to the system combined with a dry year reduced the amount of sewage overflows even further in 2001, but he did not have exact figures available.
|In the system|
Communities served by the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport system: