Storm Water Management Information
The Pittsburgh region's frequent rainfall brings an
underground, out-of-sight problem into clear view. As little as one-tenth of
an inch of rain—an average Pittsburgh rainfall is one-quarter inch—can cause
raw sewage to overflow into our rivers and streams. Melting snow can cause
the same effect.
During dry weather, the sewage collection system, which
transports wastewater from thousands of homes to the wastewater treatment
plant, operates effectively.
However, when it rains or snow melts, extra stormwater gets
into the sewage collection system through direct connections or through
leaky, cracked pipes. This extra volume of water overloads the sewage
collection system pipes and raw sewage overflows at hundreds of locations
before it reaches the treatment plant. Untreated sewage streams into
waterways, overflows from manholes or backs up into homeowners' basements.
And the effects of wet weather can last for days. During
the recreational boating season, May 15-September 30, Allegheny County
issues river advisories to warn individuals using the rivers to limit water
contact when sewage overflows have likely contaminated the water with
bacteria and viruses. Each time a river advisory is issued, it could last
for several days after a rainfall.
Since the program began in 1995, river advisories issued by
the Allegheny County Health Department have been in effect for nearly 50%
(70 days) of each recreational season.
Sewage overflows present a public health risk. While
exposure to disease-causing organisms, such as giardia or cryptosporidium,
are not considered fatal for a healthy adult, they can be deadly for those
with weaker immune systems, the elderly and small children. In addition,
Pittsburgh's three rivers serve as the main source of drinking water for 90%
of Allegheny County residents. While the public water systems do an
excellent job of purifying water before sending it to homes, source
protection is the cheapest and most effective way to ensure drinking water
Water is an important resource for the economic development
of the Pittsburgh region and sewage overflows hinder growth. Because these
overflows violate the Clean Water Act, regulatory agencies, such as the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency and PA Department of Environmental
Protection, will not permit municipalities to add new connections to the
existing sewer system until the overflow problem is fixed. This restriction
limits the construction of new businesses and homes in many communities
throughout the region.
Fixing the problem is going to require a substantial
long-term investment. Some estimates for the cost of rehabilitating the
sewage collection and treatment system total up to $3 billion. State and
federal support may be available to help offset a portion of the bill, but
municipalities must share resources and work cooperatively across geographic
boundaries in order to significantly trim the total bill for ratepayers who
will have to bear sewer rate increases in the coming years.
Click on a link below to read the details:
What goes into our
rivers impacts what goes into your glass.
Guess where you're really putting your lawn fertilizer?
Is your roof flushing raw
sewage into our rivers?
What we feed into our storm
drains can poison our rivers.