By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURHG (KDKA) – There will be a massive overhaul of our water and sewers over the next decade.

It’s meant to clean up our rivers and streams, but it’s going to cost you plenty in rate increases.

There’s no avoiding it either because the federal government has ordered it.

However, KD Investigator Andy Sheehan says that some green solutions may help keep your utility bills in sight.

If you’ve checked your water and sewer bill lately, you’re already seeing the increases. Those increases will total 50 percent over the next four years.

That’s just the start. Your bill will double or even triple over the coming years for one reason.

“We’re actually about to embark on the biggest public works project the region has ever seen,” ALCOSAN’s Jeanne Clark said.

The federally ordered big fix to the water and sewer systems has a starting price tag of $2 billion, which could climb by a billion or two more.

The reason?

Every time it rains, storm water flows into the sewers and overburdens them. As a result, raw sewage spills into our rivers and streams.

The feds are demanding that the ALSOCAN plant double its treatment capacity.

At the same time, we need to reduce the amount of storm water seeping into the system in the first place.

Etna is very familiar with the problem of storm water.

During Hurricane Ivan, the borough flooded when Pine Creek overflowed and the sewers backed up. Now, Etna is adopting a so-called green solution to prevent sewage overflows.

“We’ve disconnected the downspouts and they feed this trenching system,” Etna Borough Manager Mary Ellen Ramage said.

Instead of running into the creek and the sewers, the storm water is trapped in underground trenches and slowly filtered into the ground. Along with rain gardens and porous parking lots, Etna is one of the first municipalities to get ahead of the big fix.

“We could sit around and complain that they’re upstream and we’re downstream, or we can say, ‘What can we do to help the problem?’” Ramage said.

Reducing storm water can be done in large scale project like the French drain trench in Schenley Park or simply by installing a rain barrel at your home.

Clark says all of those efforts will save the region’s ratepayers money. .

“The faster we can reduce the storm water, the less it’s going to cost,” Clark said.

The county is asking the feds for leeway to use more green solutions and to extend the deadline for the completion of the big fix. That would also lower and slowdown the pace of the rate increases.

But make no mistake. The rates will go up sharply until our rivers and streams are clean.

Clark says in the end, it’ll be worth it.

“You might not feel it when you write that check, but we’re all going to feel it with better public health, a cleaner environment, a greener environment,” Clark said.

ALCOSAN and the 83 municipal water and sewer authorities under this order have no choice but to comply.

Those in charge say the pain will be less if they work together and go as green as possible.

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