BROOKLINE (KDKA) – Plenty of people around western Pennsylvania are staring down thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs, all because their downspouts are tied into the wrong system.

But there’s a green way to fix the problem, and save you a whole lot of cash.

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It’s called a dye test and if you fail one, it could cost you a lot of money or worse.

“They take your house away from you is what they do,” said homeowner Barbara Mazzella. “You either walk away, you rent them, you board them up.”

The test determined that Mazzella’s downspouts on Pioneer Boulevard in Brookline tied into the sanitary sewer. The city and county told her that in order to sell the house the spouts would have to be tied into the storm sewer instead.

And although she had a buyer, the tie-in would have cost her between $30,000 and $40,000, when the house is only worth $55,000.

It’s part of a federal consent order to keep storm water out of the sanitary sewer and prevent raw sewage from spilling into our rivers and streams. As a result, Mazzella and homeowners throughout the region find themselves stuck with houses they no longer want, but cannot sell.

But now, there’s some hope. The city is looking toward green methods of capturing storm water as a way to save property owners a whole lot of greenbacks.

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“Rain barrel gardens for some homes can be the saving grace,” said Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman. “And those can cost a couple of thousand dollars instead of $15 – or $20,000.”

Gilman wants to help the 5,000 property owners in the city who have failed dye tests and who will ultimately have to fix their storm water problems.

Where currently a homeowner must seek approvals from both the city and county, Gilman wants to streamline the process to require only a city approval with an eye toward granting green solutions.

“Which is A. much better for the environment, and B. much more affordable to the homeowners,” said Gilman.

After meeting with Mayor Bill Peduto and representatives of the County of Pittsburgh Sewer Authority, Gilman believes this streamlining is a go – and that’s music to the ears of Barbara Mazzella.

“That’s the best news I could have, the best news I could have,” she said.

And if these green solutions are approved, it could mean a world of difference to these homeowners and to the vitality of neighborhoods like this one throughout Allegheny County.

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