South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

PWSA building green stormwater infrastructure in park


Last updated 3/24/2022 at 5:44pm

The South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) has two new board members following election at the organization's annual meeting via Zoom on March 8: Andrew Fetzko and Marc Bowman.

Reelected board members were Cara Jette, Gavin Robb, Lucia Sanchez-Madrigal, and Jami Szalla.

The retiring board members are Brian Oswald and Denise Fillip. Trees will be planted in their honor at South Side Park, said President Blake McLaren, who was reelected president.

Two openings for board positions remain. Those interested in joining the board or a committee, should contact, or call Mr. McLaren at 412-721-1725.

The meeting kicked off with a listing of the various ways to contact the organization. 

Mr. McLaren cited;; or 412-376-7373. The SSSNA can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.

He also said the meeting was being recorded, and would be available on YouTube.

The first presentation was on stormwater management by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA).

Stormwater matters because when it rains, excess water overflows rivers and homes are flooded. With better stormwater management, pollution and water into rivers can be reduced.

Too much stormwater plus sewer water equals pollution in our rivers. It does not take much to overflow the system as it can happen with an inch or less of rainfall.

Rebecca Zito, senior manager, Public Affairs, said there has been a 71 percent increase since the 1950s in severe storm events in Allegheny County. Those events bring thunder, hail, tornadoes, and more.

Today, Pittsburgh averages 38 inches of rain per year. Severe, highly-localized storms frequently overrun the sewer system and treatment capacity.

Our system was not built for this volume of stormwater. Compounding the stormwater problem is that we have more pavements and hard surfaces than a century ago.

The rain "needs somewhere to go," she said.

To report basement backups and flooding, call PWSA's emergency dispatch at 412-255-2423; call 311; or report it using the myburgh app: .

To tackle all of these challenges, PWSA is building an innovative green stormwater infrastructure that will transform stormwater management as it is designed to capture and hold excess runoff before it goes to the river.

There are 17 such projects throughout Pittsburgh.

For more information, visit:

In an update on the South Side Park stormwater project, Ms. Zito said it is awaiting a joint permit application from the state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Construction will begin upon receipt of the permit on the upper portion of the project.

Among the activities in the park in preparation for the improvements will be for PWSA to relocate two 30-inch water mains under the Mission Street Bridge in Fall, 2022.

Besides changing how it manages stormwater, PWSA changed how it bills for stormwater beginning this year.

Even if a parcel has no water meter, it will be eligible for payment of a stormwater bill to PWSA. Ms. Zito said it is more fair and equitable than billing by meter usage.

By changing how PWSA charges for stormwater, improvements in the stormwater process, over time, can be made. The payoff should be fewer basement backups and less pollution.

For more fee information, visit: .

Next, Sarah Viszneki, of PWSA, discussed customer assistance programs and federal assistance to help pay one's water bills.

The Energy Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) was created to help renters during COVID.

There is also the new Pennsylvania Homeowner Assistance Fund for utilities and mortgage payments.

For information on the lead service line replacement reimbursement program, contact 412-255-8987, or email .

There is also a customer usage portal to help all customers track their real-time water usage.

For any questions, email Ms. Viszneki at .

In her update, state Rep. Jessica Benham, 36th District, said the area is nearing $4 million in state grants. The SSSNA should contact her if it wants to apply for a grant.

A blood drive at the IBEW building on South Side on March 2 drew 25 donors, which could save up to 75 lives.

She also reported that a meeting on speakeasies, or establishments which sell alcohol without a license, was held in February. The panel included Liquor Control Enforcement, Pittsburgh police, and others.

A video of the event is available; please contact her office.

PennDot expects work to begin in May on the Fern Hollow Bridge which collapsed in January. It is expected to be completed in a year to a year-and-a-half.

Rep. Benham also reported a senior fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 6 in the Brentwood Civic Center parking lot. Forty vendors have already signed on.

Next, city Councilman Bruce Kraus said the PennDOT Carson St. safety improvement project is moving along with signals being installed. Most bump-outs are finished.

Once the bump-outs and signals are in, the remainder of the sidewalks will be installed and road surfaces redone from Station Square to the Frank Fuhrer company. 

He also reported the contract has been awarded for the 18th St. signals upgrade project. The plan is to begin construction in the spring and be completed in a year.

The intersections will be redesigned at Sarah St., Jane St., Mary St., Josephine St., Mission St., Arlington Ave., and Amanda St.

The traffic signal upgrades include: gloss black signal poles; audible countdown pedestrian signals; and more.

Kitty Vagley, of the Friends of South Side Park, highlighted the group's major pursuits, such as a bike pump track, or a one-way track that goes up and down and around and does not require pedaling as riders pump with their bodies.

The first grant was received for $17,500 from the PNC Charitable Trust for the ADA trail to run near the Bandi Schaum Community Garden.

TreeVitalize will be donating 20 large trees to plant on April 30.

No date has been set yet for Goatfest. Vendors are sought. The purpose of the goats is to eat invasive species and vines.

For more information on South Side Park, email .

Next, Mr. McLaren reported there will be discussion at the May 10 SSSNA meeting on a proposed by-laws change that would broaden eligibility for joining the board.

As it stands now, voting members must have attended two public meetings in the past year. The change would enlarge that to include two public meetings, events, or activities in the last year.

Mr. McLaren it is in response to the shift which has occurred in how we interact as the pandemic changed how people choose to spend their time.

In committee updates, StepTrek planning will begin in June.

The annual non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the Slopes will be in-person.

At 6 p.m. on the last Thursday in April a clean-up will take place in the Bandi Schaum parking lot.

The next public meeting of the SSSNA will be in-person on May 10. A site has yet to be determined.


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