PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — At its North Side treatment plant, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority cleans 250 million gallons of wastewater every.
But now, in order to double its capacity, ALCOSAN is implementing a staggering rate increase – 17 percent next year, then another 11 percent increase in 2015, tack on an 11 percent boost in 2016, and then you can add another 11 percent increase in 2017.
“A modest increase I could see because of the cost of living and everything going up, but not 49 percent, said Debby Lewis, of Ohio Township.
But state and federal environmental officials say the time has come.
“We cannot put this off. We cannot kick this can down the road,” said John Poister, of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
The reason is this — a federal consent decree ordering ALCOSAN and 83 individual sewage authorities to undertake billions of dollars in upgrades.
Every time it rains the antiquated systems become overburdened and dump raw sewage in our rivers and streams.
The feds are demanding a stop to these so-called combined sewage overflows by 2026. These rate increases at ALCOSAN and your local sewage authorities are just beginning.
“Yes, the rates will continue to increase and we keep telling the public that information as well,” said Nancy Barylak, of ALCOSAN.
Two billion dollars in fixes at ALCOSAN alone and that number is excepted to be matched by the local authorities.
While some are proposing the use of so-called green infrastructure like rain barrels and green roofs to trap the rain water before it flows into the system, even proponents concede their role will be limited.
“It’s unlikely that green infrastructure alone is capable of handling that. I think what you’re going to see is a menu of different solutions,” said John Schombert, of 3 Rivers Wet Weather.
But even those green solutions cost money, and with no funds coming from either the state or the federal government, those costs must be borne by the ratepayers for years and years to come.