The last step in the approval process of the federal consent decree to the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) addressing sewer overflows was met when federal Judge Gary Lancaster signed off on the document last month.
“This culminates the approval process,” said ALCOSAN Executive Director Arletta Scott Williams. “The next phase is the implementation of the 263 page document that will initiate the largest public works project ever in Allegheny County,” she said.
The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) concluded negotiations in May with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Allegheny County Health Department regarding a consent decree to address sewer overflows. The consent decree was lodged in federal court May 31, 2007 with ALCOSAN conducting a series of regional meetings in June and July aimed at informing the public and soliciting feedback on activities that will be required.
ALCOSAN has been taking steps since 1992 to address the changing regulatory climate which prohibits sanitary sewer overflows and calls for a decrease in frequency of combined sewer overflows. In that time, 36 projects have begun or are in the process of completion to meet consent decree requirements.
“We have only four years to develop a comprehensive plan that spells out specific projects, timelines and costs,” Ms. Williams said. “We needed to stay ahead of the curve to get the most reliable data to complete the plan, and, most importantly, saves ratepayers money as the projects were spread out over time.”
Large scale construction will begin after regulatory approval of the plan which is due 2012.
Currently, the 83 communities within the ALCOSAN service area are under EPA mandates to repair broken sewer lines, reduce inflow and infiltration, reduce the frequency and amount of combined sewer overflows, and eliminate sanitary sewer overflows.
“The consent decree will coordinate with existing community agreements,” Ms. Williams said. ALCOSAN's document addresses maximizing flow to the treatment plant and providing a greater level of treatment. While the issue of regulatory consent decrees addressing sewer overflows is not unique throughout the country, the ALCOSAN service area provided a challenge due to the fragmentation of sewer line ownership. ALCOSAN owns and maintains 90 miles of interceptor sewer lines while the communities own and maintain almost 4,000 miles of sewer lines.