Regional Cooperation for Water Quality Improvement in Southwestern Pennsylvania
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
Support for this study was provided by a grant from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization that provided support for the project.
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Cover Photo: The Pittsburgh Point where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers converge to form the Ohio River. Photograph courtesy of Jessica Hess. Copyright 2005 by Jessica Hess. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2005 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council
COMMITTEE ON WATER QUALITY IMPROVEMENT FOR THE PITTSBURGH REGION*
JEROME B. GILBERT, Chair,
J. Gilbert Inc., Orinda, California
BRIAN J. HILL,
Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Meadville†
JEFFREY M. LAURIA,
Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., Columbus, Ohio
GARY S. LOGSDON,
Black & Veatch Corporation (retired), Cincinnati, Ohio
PERRY L. MCCARTY,
Stanford University, Stanford, California
Tetra Tech, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio
DAVID H. MOREAU,
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
NELSON P. MOYER,
The CADMUS Group, Inc., Iowa City, Iowa
RUTHERFORD H. PLATT,
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
STUART S. SCHWARTZ,
Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio
JAMES S. SHORTLE,
Pennsylvania State University, University Park
JOEL A. TARR,
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
JEANNE M. VANBRIESEN,
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
PAUL F. ZIEMKIEWICZ,
West Virginia University, Morgantown
MARK C. GIBSON, Study Director
DOROTHY K. WEIR, Senior Project Assistant
The activities of this committee were overseen and supported by the National Research Council’s Water Science and Technology Board (see Appendix D for listing). Biographical information on committee members and staff is contained in Appendix E.
Mr. Hill resigned from the committee in May 2004 after accepting a position in the Policy Office of the Governor, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The City of Pittsburgh is located in western Pennsylvania and sits astride the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, at the junction of the Ohio River. These rivers have played critical roles in the city’s history. Although utilized by various Native American tribes, the region moved into a different stage when it became a place of strategic significance in mid-eighteenth century struggles between the French and British empires, and soon after between European colonists and native tribes. Later, in the nineteenth century, the region became a “gateway” to the Ohio valley and the American West. Although it initially thrived as a commercial center, the region’s resources and locational advantages moved it rapidly toward industrial production, especially of iron products.
By the time of the Civil War, Pittsburgh had become a prosperous industrial city with a population of more than 50,000, surrounded by other industrial towns. Cheap energy from the easily exploited Pittsburgh coal seam and the activities of many notable entrepreneurs, inventors, and venture capitalists made Pittsburgh one of the nation’s leading manufacturing centers by the turn of the twentieth century. For the first quarter or so of the 1900s, the city and region enjoyed a booming industrial economy, including creation of an extensive urban infrastructure and vibrant cultural institutions. Industrial growth, however, came at a high environmental cost, with degradation of air, water, and land resources.
After its boom industrial years, the region suffered a number of severe shocks, including the great flood of 1936, the economic impacts of the Depression, and further deterioration of its environment and infrastructure because of intensive wartime manufacturing demands during World War II. At the end of that war however, under the leadership of Richard King Mellon, Mayor David Lawrence, and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the city embarked on its first so-called “Renaissance.” This included redevelopment of downtown Pittsburgh, creation of a new highway system, and environmental improvements such as smoke control and construction of a major sewage treatment plant serving most of Allegheny County. In addition, city elites and politicians successfully lobbied for the construction of several U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control dams in the upstream watersheds that have significantly reduced flood risks on the three major rivers.
Between 1978 and 1983, however, the steel industry—the prime component of the region’s industrial economy—folded, and more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs were lost. In spite of the collapse of steel, the ever-resilient region embarked in the 1980s on “Renaissance II,” concentrating on both downtown and neighborhood improvements. Regional adjustments and new endeavors continued through the 1990s, as Pittsburgh reinvented itself, creating an economy featuring high technology, medical research, institutions of higher education, and other enterprises to replace the heavy industry of its past.
The “reinvented” Pittsburgh region recognizes the importance of clean water and other natural resources, but it must confront myriad issues and problems across southwestern Pennsylvania and therefore can ill afford to approach such problems inefficiently. As part of a proactive effort to strategically address the region’s water quality and related problems, this National Research Council (NRC) study was commissioned by the nonprofit Allegheny Conference on Community Development (ACCD), an institution involving leaders from
industry, government, and academia that has for decades brought intellectual and political power to address economic and other issues of the region.
To undertake the study that resulted in this report, the NRC’s Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB) formed the Committee on Water Quality Improvement for the Pittsburgh Region. The committee carried out an independent assessment of the wastewater and water quality problems of the region and has made recommendations on how these issues and needs can best be addressed. The charge to our committee (see statement of task, Box ES-1) was based on regional needs, as identified by project sponsors and other regional experts and interests and negotiated with the WSTB. At the outset, these needs were considered and the committee surveyed available data to see if they would support detailed answers to the questions posed in the statement of task. In general, the committee’s analyses were constrained by data limitations—ranging from concentrations and sources of main stem river bacteria to on-site waste disposal conditions—that did not allow it to provide specific technical recommendations, and such a level of prescription is not characteristic of the NRC in any case. However, an assessment of the data and information that do exist allowed the committee to recommend a comprehensive watershed-based approach and strategy for the region. We believe our report should help serve as a basis for developing a water quality improvement investment strategy to be pursued by the multiple jurisdictions on a cooperative basis. The committee also hopes that this report will be of interest to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to other urban areas where a regional cooperative approach to water quality management would be beneficial.
The committee consisted of 14 volunteer experts in environmental and hydrologic engineering, public health and aquatic microbiology, watershed management, urban and regional planning, history, public policy, law, and economics. The committee was constituted to help generate multidisciplinary strategies for addressing regional wastewater and water quality problems and included members with experience in southwestern Pennsylvania and others with relevant expertise from throughout the nation. The committee consulted with the study sponsors, the public, and members of a “resource panel” that included representatives of a wide variety of local, regional, and state organizations concerned with the region’s water quality (see Appendix A). That panel of regional experts was formed by the ACCD to assist the study and, especially, to respond to the committee’s requests for information. This report’s conclusions and recommendations are based on a review of relevant technical literature; information gathered at seven committee meetings; a public stakeholder workshop held at Carnegie Mellon University on July 8, 2002, in conjunction with the first committee meeting; and the collective expertise of committee members.
I would like to thank the members of this committee for dedicating their time and expertise in addressing the water quality problems of southwestern Pennsylvania. The committee was guided in the generation of this report by Stephen D. Parker, director of the WSTB, and Mark C. Gibson, study director and WSTB senior staff officer. Mark set the pace and agenda for the study, helped the committee maintain focus on the study tasks, and ensured compliance with NRC policies. Assisting Mark and Steve in these efforts was Dorothy K. Weir, who as our project assistant was responsible for meeting logistics, research assistance, report preparation, and editorial tasks. The committee members had the benefit of information from a wide range of the members of the resource panel mentioned above and other concerned residents of the region—especially that gained at the public stakeholder workshop. It is particularly indebted to Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University who chaired the Western Division of the Pennsylvania Economy League’s Southwestern Pennsylvania Water and Sewer
Infrastructure Project Steering Committee that produced the 2002 report Investing in Clean Water and who initially pursued this NRC study. He, along with ACCD officials Harold Miller, Jan Lauer, and Joshua Donner, and John W. Schombert, Executive Director of the Three Rivers Wet Weather Demonstration Program, deserve particular credit and appreciation for their participation and considerable assistance throughout this study. The committee also thanks Jiayi Li and Sherie Mershon of Pennsylvania State University and Carnegie Mellon University, respectively, for their graphics and research contributions to this report.
This report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Daniel P. Loucks, Cornell University; William V. Luneburg, Jr., University of Pittsburgh School of Law; James M. McElfish, Jr., Environmental Law Institute; William J. Miller, consulting engineer, Berkeley, California; Max J. Pfeffer, Cornell University; Larry A. Roesner, Colorado State University; Mary W. Stoertz, Ohio University; and Marylynn V. Yates, University of California, Riverside.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Patrick R. Atkins of the Aluminum Company of America, New York, N.Y. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of the report was carefully carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the NRC.
Jerome B. Gilbert, Chair