KD Investigates: Sewer Fixes Could Bankrupt Homeowners
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a requirement aimed at cleaning up our waterway, but for some homeowners, like Dale Redpath, it could mean bankruptcy.
“This was my retirement money,” says Redpath. “Now, I don’t have it. That’s how I see it.”
Redpath brought a house in Brookline as an investment. But the day before he was to sell it, a dye test showed the runoff from the house went directly into the sanitary sewer.
The Pittsburgh Water Sewer Authority told him before he could sell he’d have to pay $30,000 to tap into the storm sewer. Now, Redpath says he’ll just let the bank foreclose on the house.
“What am I going to do? I’m going to walk away. I’m going to walk away and ruin my credit because I have no other option,” Redpath says. “There is no other option.”
He’s not alone in the city. More than 4,000 homes have failed the test, and it’s estimated that there are thousands more in other Allegheny County suburbs.
When it rains, those lines become overloaded and spill raw sewage in our rivers and streams. So, the state and federal governments have ordered that downspouts hook into the storm sewers instead.
But they’re placing the entire burden of the shoulders of homeowners like Barbara Mazzella.
“We have to route the traffic, reroute the school traffic, tear up Pioneer Avenue, hook up this downspout, resurface Pioneer Avenue all at a cost of $30,000,” said Mazzella. “The house is only worth $35.”
The Water and Sewer Authority is enforcing the regulation, but says their hands are tied, that the directives are coming from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“We have to do it,” says James Good, of PSWA. “It’s not something we want to do; it’s not something we look forward to doing.”
The DEP, meanwhile, says they are under orders coming from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
“We are all under the gun,” said John Poister, of the EPA. “The EPA really wants this cleanup to get underway in a serious manner.”
But on Pioneer Avenue, some houses have already been abandoned.
“This house, that house, one, two, three, four, five houses all within eyesight cannot be sold,” said Mazzella. “We’re all running into the same problems.”