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PWSA to Launch Stormwater Project

Thursday, April 8, 2021

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Officials from the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority recently reported that the city’s Four Mile Run Stormwater Project is expected to kick off this spring.

The $36.1 million effort plans to manage the flow and collection of stormwater that’s plagued a 2,400-acre stretch of Pittsburgh, that specifically affects the city’s Garfield, Squirrel Hill, Oakland and Hazelwood neighborhoods.

According to Pittsburgh's NPR News Station, as a result of rainfall stormwater funnels through Schenley Park and Panther Hollow Lake and into the Run, where two major sewer lines meet. Occasionally, when the existing system can’t handle the influx, untreated sewage overflows into people’s homes.

Four Mile Run Stormwater Project

Designs for the project launched back in May 2018 are currently 90% complete. Since the project’s announcement, the community has had several meetings involving its progress and status. Currently, the city is working to obtain necessary permits and meeting required safety regulations as to better manage the depth of the lake and control the volume of water entering the combined sewer system.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is requiring a dam permit for the lake, among others.

On the project’s webpage, the PWSA reports that improvements will be made to the stormwater systems that follow the path of the former Junction Hollow Stream. Once rehabilitated, the system will channel rainwater, restore streambanks, and plant native and climate tolerant vegetation. As part of the plan, a deep gravity pipe will be installed to convey stormwater from Schenley Park and the Run Neighborhood to the Monongahela River.

Project manager for PWSA, Mallory Griffin told reporters that the first part of the project will be to restore a 50-inch pipe that collects all of the water flowing to the Monongahela River. During these efforts, crews will install a metal flap gate that intends to stop the river from backing up into the network and prevent overflows.

“The results of this project will show you an immediate impact on flood reduction,” she said.

Following these efforts, larger water and sewer lines will also be replaced and a new storm sewer line will be installed. Panther Hollow Lake will be dredged and updated to act as a collection point for stormwater as well.

To break down the project’s total cost, PWSA adds that:

  • $7.5 million has been used for the design, easement, permitting and modeling fees;
  • $537,000 for the early action project;
  • $3.6 million for the M29 outfall project;
  • $7 million to relocate a 50-inch water line;
  • $3 million for the stream and Panther Hollow lake and dam;
  • $11 million for a new stormwater pipeline;
  • $2.5 million for construction management and inspection; and
  • $1 million for future maintenance and operations.

If all of PWSA’s pending permits are approved, work on the project is expected to launch in May. The entire project is expected to run through late 2023.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection have been after Pittsburgh for years to reduce combined sewer overflows. PWSA, the city, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) have all been working to prevent stormwater from flowing into the sanitary system as well as to upgrade the existing system.

Pittsburgh Stormwater History

Last year, ALCOSAN announced that its $2 billion plan to remove seven billion gallons of stormwater and sewage from rivers and streams in the county has been approved by the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

The Modified Consent Decree agreement is with the United States Department of Justice, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the Allegheny County Health Department.

According to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, ALCOSAN and the EPA developed the “Wet Weather Plan” consent decree in 2008, aimed at developing a wet weather plan for reducing serious combined sewer overflow and sanitary sewer overflow problems.

Taking a step further, the DEP also signed consent orders with all of ALCOSAN’s 83 municipal customers, requiring each to complete feasibility studies for controlling their CSO issues.

Additionally, ALCOSAN also requested that the Allegheny Conference on Community Development create a review panel to address regionalization of the ALCOSAN system and make recommendations. As a result, the 34-member panel developed alternatives for regionalizing ALCOSAN’s decentralized system in order to help improve the area’s water quality in compliance with the Clean Water Act.

The development plan to address wet weather overflows was completed in 2012. However, the public challenged ALCOSAN to make the plan more affordable for ratepayers, yet flexible enough to take advantage of advances in the field of green stormwater and wastewater management. Further negotiations followed the request.

In its release on the recent approval, ALCOSAN reports that the modified consent decree will allow ALCOSAN to continue forward with its newly established “Clean Water Plan," extends time frames in which ALCOSAN must implement its Clean Water Plan and allows the proposal of future amendments to the Clean Water Plan, which could include replacing some proposed control technologies with green infrastructure controls.

To reach the Consent Decree goals, the Clean Water Plan will focus on four key areas:

  • Preventing excess water from entering the sewer system through the use of green infrastructure and other technologies, in addition to the use of a multi-year, multi-million-dollar grant through the Green Revitalization of Our Waterways program which plans to fund various municipality and sewer projects;
  • Increasing adaptive management and conveyance capacity through the use of adaptive management and base long-term planning on data from green infrastructure, flow-reduction projects, and other technologies;
  • Regionalizing multi-municipal sewers through the effort to assume ownership of certain multi-municipal trunk sewers and related facilities; and
  • Expanding wastewater treatment plants—which currently have a capacity of 250 million gallons per day (mgd)—by upgrading its pump stations, building a new vehicle maintenance garage and expanding treatment operations. The efforts will expand wet weather treatment capacity of the plant from 250 mgd to 480 mgd and wet weather headworks and disinfection capacity to 600 mgd.

Through the modified plan, ALCOSAN intends to eliminate all illegal sanitary sewer discharges into the region’s rivers and streams and reduce sewage and stormwater overflows from 153 combined sewer outfalls by 85%. To achieve this, the plan has proposed the construction of over 15 miles of underground 14-foot-diameter storage tunnels along the city’s rivers.

More recently, in February, the EPA announced that it had reached a consent agreement with the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority over various stormwater inspection and enforcement violations.

The agreement comes as a settlement following a variety of violations, including but not limited to failure to implement inspections and enforcement procedures for construction site erosion, sediment control measures and post-construction stormwater management best management practices.

Under the agreement, both entities are required to:

  • Submit an updated stormwater code for approval to the Pittsburgh city council by July 2021;
  • Hire additional inspectors and enforcement staff for 2022; and
  • Put management partnership procedures in place by the end of January 2022.

The agreement requires the city and PWSA to comply with a schedule of activities to ensure full compliance with these requirements by March 31, 2022, and to submit quarterly progress reports to EPA.

EPA coordinated with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in developing the settlement. ALCOSAN is subject to a federal-state-county consent decree that requires it to reduce sewage overflows into rivers and streams and end the illegal discharges from sanitary sewer outfalls.


Tagged categories: Contracts; Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Sewer systems; Stormwater; Upcoming projects; Water/Wastewater

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