Summary of Select Reports Concerning Water and Wastewater Quality Problems of Southwestern Pennsylvania
Investing in Clean Water: A Report from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Water and Sewer Infrastructure Project Steering Committee (WSIP, 2002)
This report considers the pervasive water quality and wastewater issues facing the southwestern Pennsylvania region by examining current problems (e.g., combined sewer overflows, aging infrastructure, communities without sewage treatment) and exploring possible solutions to such problems. The authoring steering committee concludes that a key to dealing with wastewater pollution is adopting a regional approach to protecting, treating, and delivering the region’s water. The steering committee acknowledges that urban and rural areas face different problems, but believes that the needs of the watershed and its infrastructure transcend political and economic boundaries. If municipalities, authorities, and homeowners work together to address and resolve these problems, the burden of cost will be spread out and diminished accordingly. The report recommends three regional strategies to improve the water and wastewater systems of southwestern Pennsylvania:
plan and prioritize water and wastewater investments;
help communities find the most cost-effective solutions and educate the public; and
advocate for legislative and regulatory action and for state and federal funding.
Water Quality in the Allegheny and Monongahela River Basins: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, and Maryland, 1996-98 (Anderson et al., 2000)
This report was generated under the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program and summarizes the major findings about water quality in the Allegheny and Monongahela River Basins from 1996 to 1998. The report states that the major influences on stream and river water quality were abandoned coal mines; maintenance of navigation channels; increased urban development; and reductions in agricultural, industrial, and coal production activities. Major factors affecting groundwater quality included coal mining, pesticide and fertilizer use, gasoline and oxygenate use, and naturally occurring concentrations of radon.
Plumbing the Future: Sewage Infrastructure and Sustainability in Western Pennsylvania (Environmental Law Institute, 1999)
At the request of the Heinz Endowments, the Environmental Law Institute studied the relationship between sewage infrastructure decisions in western Pennsylvania and the effects of those decisions on urban, suburban, and rural landscapes of the region. The report examines ways in which the laws and policies affecting sewage infrastructure investment can be utilized to repair problems with aging infrastructure without increasing pressure for sprawl. It also seeks to assure regional decision makers that new development supported by sewage infrastructure investments is sustainable and consistent with regional goals. The report focuses on the demographic, environmental, and technical issues affecting current infrastructure; identifies the legal and institutional issues affecting decision makers; examines financial alternatives and opportunities for infrastructure improvements or replacements; and identifies promising new approaches including new uses for existing laws.
Draft Combined Sewer Overflow Program Phase I Activity Report: Regional Long Term Wet Weather Control Concept Plan (ALCOSAN, 1999)
The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) operates under a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit (see also Box 1-1) which is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). Under this permit, ALCOSAN was required to prepare a long term control plan (LTCP) for combined sewer systems—although ALCOSAN also incorporated sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) planning into its wet weather planning efforts—and published this report in March of 1999. This draft plan advocates the use of a “presumption approach” as allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (see Chapter 5 for further information) to address Allegheny County’s combined sewer overflow (CSO) problem. The LTCP calls for the elimination of SSOs by providing for secondary treatment of flow equivalent to the flow from separate sewered areas.
Third Party Review of the ALCOSAN Regional Long Term Wet Weather Control Concept Plan (TPRC, 2002)
This report is an independent review of ALCOSAN’s 1999 LTCP (summarized above) and was conducted by the Third Party Review Committee (TPRC). The TPRC held information gathering meetings and completed limited water quality modeling based on existing data. The report provides data, observations, and findings relevant to the continued refinement and development of a cost-effective LTCP for ALCOSAN.
Southwestern Pennsylvania Citizens’ Vision for Smart Growth: Strengthening Communities and Regional Economy (Sustainable Pittsburgh, 2003)
This report is the result of dialogue among concerned citizens and organizations of the Pittsburgh area regarding regional planning efforts and the application of “smart-growth”
principles in an effort to promote sustainable development as well as economic growth. In regard to water issues, the report asserts that sewers and water systems may foster sprawl because water infrastructure is necessary for new development. Thus, sewer service providers and water suppliers have de facto authority to influence the density and location of new developments. The report also urges regional cooperation in an effort to steer development to existing communities by repairing and upgrading water systems that are already in place.
ALCOSAN (Allegheny County Sanitary Authority). 1999. Draft Combined Sewer Overflow Program Phase I Activity Report: Regional Long Term Wet Weather Control Concept Plan. Pittsburgh, PA: ALCOSAN.
Anderson, R., K. Beer, T. Buckwalter, M. Clark, S. McAuley, J. Sams, and D. Williams. 2000. Water Quality in the Allegheny and Monongahela River Basins: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, and Maryland (1996-98). Denver, CO: U.S. Geologic Survey.
ELI (Environmental Law Institute). 1999. Plumbing the Future: Sewerage and Sustainability in Western Pennsylvania. Washington, DC: ELI.
Sustainable Pittsburgh. 2003. Southwestern Pennsylvania Citizens’ Vision for Smart Growth: Strengthening Communities and Regional Economy. Pittsburgh, PA: Sustainable Pittsburgh.
TPRC (Third Party Review Committee). 2002. Third Party Review of the ALCOSAN Regional Long Term Wet Weather Control Concept Plan. Pittsburgh, PA: ALCOSAN.
WSIP (Southwestern Pennsylvania Water and Sewer Infrastructure Project Steering Committee). 2002. Investing in Clean Water: A Report from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Water and Sewer Infrastructure Project Steering Committee. Pittsburgh, PA: Campaign for Clean Water.