PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s called the “big fix.”
One of the largest Public Works projects in the region’s history; it’s the mandated overhaul of water and sewer systems throughout Allegheny County.
This week, we are getting the first look at a partial price tag.
More and more people are reclaiming our rivers for recreation; but during the heavy rains, storm sewer gates open up and pour millions of gallons of raw sewage into the water.
To stop the so-called combined sewage overflows, the Federal Environmental Agency has mandated the overhaul of storm sewers throughout Allegheny County.
And the price tag is expected to be to staggering.
The preliminary plan to lay 24 miles of new trunk lines and make other improvements in Pittsburgh and neighboring communities is projected at $277 million; and most, if not all, will come from you in the form of increased water and sewer rates.
But Councilman Patrick Dowd says don’t panic just yet.
“Those numbers, they hit you like a brick. Wow, that’s a lot of money,” said Dowd. “But we also know we have a lot of planning to do and those numbers can change.”
The city and 82 other municipalities will have until 2026 to complete the fix; and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is already saying it will try to extend that deadline, phasing in the project and the cost over time.
“We just don’t think there’s any affordable way the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority or any other authority can meet that target in a way that’s affordable to the rate payers,” says James Good, the PWSA interim director.
But even if the feds extend the deadline, they will not be getting any other help in federal grants or aid.
But short term or long term, it’s going to take a lot of money to clean up the rivers, and it’s going to fall on the individual ratepayers to do it.