PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There is a big problem with the sewers in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Fixing it could mean $2-3 billion dollars – a cost which could be passed on to taxpayers.
The federal government wants Pittsburgh to add huge, underground storage tanks to the sewer system. They’re currently adding similar tanks in Washington, D.C.
Authorities there are overhauling the capitol city’s sewage system. They’re building the tanks underneath the streets and rivers. When construction is over, the tunnels will be 14 miles long.
Much like Washington, D.C., every time it rains heavily in Pittsburgh, storm water overloads the combined sewer system. Raw sewage ends up in our rivers and streams. In theory, the tunnels would trap all that wastewater, hold and gradually pump it into a sewage treatment plant at a later time.
The hope is to use a giant boring machine to dig underground and construct our own sewage tunnels. But the cost would likely be passed on to customers. The average sewer bill in Allegheny County two years ago was $126.00 per quarter. Today, it’s $156.00 per quarter, and will likely increase to $192.00 in two years.
But if the containment tank plan goes through, the average household bill is expected to triple over the next 10 years – to $451.00 per quarter in 2026.
With such a steep, projected increase, many people are wondering, why do we need these new storage tanks?
Mayor Peduto is against the plan.
“You’re talking about building some of the largest septic tanks in the world,” he says.
Both Mayor Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald want the federal government to find a solution that’s more environmentally friendly.
The mayor thinks things like green roofs, rain gardens and other projects could save money by trapping rain water before it ends up in the sewer system. Experts think the move could save taxpayers millions.
In Washington, D.C., officials are trying to eliminate the need for one of their underground tunnels by adding a green roof on top of the city reservoir. But officials say the project is proving to be just as expensive as building the tunnels.
The sewer upgrade problem isn’t just limited to Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. Cities around the country have strict orders to make upgrades, to the tune of billions of dollars.