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2014 Manager's Minutes

December  2014:

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) has completed a review of the Feasibility Studies (FS) submitted by the 51 sanitary sewer municipalities in the ALCOSAN service area concluded that 50 municipalities submitted a FS that meets the minimum requirements of the Administrative Consent Orders.  All of the sanitary sewer municipalities have an approved O&M plan which requires yearly update submissions to ACHD.   The Municipal Consent Orders expire on March 30, 2015. 

At the November 13, 2014 Wet Weather Working Group Meeting (3WG), attendees voiced their desire to make a unified request to the Allegheny County Health Department and the PA Department of Environmental Protection for an extension to the current orders.  An extension would provide additional time for municipalities to work out details on initiatives currently underway, such as the regionalization of the trunk sewers.  At the suggestion of those present at the 3WG meeting,

3RWW will draft an optional letter of request for those municipalities in the ALCOSAN service area that wish to have an extension.  It is anticipated that a draft of this optional letter will be available for review by municipalities early in 2015.   From the June Municipal Update meeting with EPA earlier this year, it is our understanding that the regulatory agencies are currently negotiating with ALCOSAN  a modified Consent Decree that would address issues of regionalization, source reduction, flow targets, green infrastructure and water quality. Our thanks to the Allegheny County Health Department for making their Feasibility Study review summary data available for our information. 

November  2014:

With increased focus on regionalization, municipalities will have a higher level of obligation for operation and maintenance of their sewer systems. Asset management enables municipalities to use their limited resources to address system priorities, regulatory requirements, and financial obligations to better serve their customers.  At 3 Rivers Wet Weather’s annual sewer conference in October, Rich McGillis, Director of Collection Systems for Sanitary District 1 (SD1) in Northern Kentucky, shared the authority’s experience with implementing an asset management system.

Although asset management can be challenging, SD 1 recognized the importance of using it as a tool to improve its level of customer service. It helps to make more cost-effective decisions on managing aging assets, and it can also provide transparency to justify increased costs to the public, governing bodies, and stakeholders.  SD1 has found that maintenance and renewal of the collection system at a sufficient rate to avoid critical failures and excessive costs is key to their operation and ultimately will allow them to meet customer service and water quality goals. To help municipalities further understand the elements of a good asset management program, we have attached the SD1 case study presentation and provided a link to an asset management report. 3RWW will continue to work to identify the best tools and approaches for managing regional sewer system assets to deliver services to customers in the most efficient and cost-effective ways. 

October  2014

Planning is moving forward on the process for the proposed transfer of multi-municipal trunk sewers and existing and planned wet weather control facilities to ALCOSAN.  These would include conveyance pipes of at least 10” in diameter and larger that are part of trunk sewer lines (not collection system sewer pipes) and convey flows from multiple municipalities to ALCOSAN’s interceptors.  Transfer principles were approved by the Sewer Regionalization Implementation Committee (SRIC*) in May and reviewed at a municipal solicitors’ update meeting on June 11. SRIC has drafted a due diligence checklist, which is being tested in Girty’s Run. Girty's Run Joint Sewer Authority, West View Borough and ALCOSAN are collaborating on the transfer of Girtys Run trunk sewer and retention basin

SRIC and ALCOSAN are developing a draft transfer agreement that will be presented at a future municipal solicitors’ meeting.  A number of municipalities and municipal authorities have also indicated their willingness to proceed with transfer of multi-municipal trunk sewers. The total number of miles of trunk sewers to be transferred is being further refined with ALCOSAN staff. The draft maps, which depict the multi-municipal pipes and wet weather control facilities that are proposed for transfer, will be presented to the municipalities by ALCOSAN for review and comment possibly in October.  

3 Rivers Wet Weather will continue to provide regular updates on sewer regionalization at the Wet Weather Working Group Meetings (3WG), or if you have specific questions, please don’t hesitate to contact John Schombert:  jschombert@3rww.org or 412-578-7962.

*SRIC is a stakeholder committee made up of municipal and authority managers, municipal solicitors and  ALCOSAN with support provided by 3 Rivers Wet Weather and CONNECT.

September 2014

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) performed a comprehensive review for all 87 Feasibility Studies submitted by ALCOSAN service area municipalities, including both municipal sanitary and combined systems, plus additional submissions from authorities within the service area and separate reports based on multi-municipal points of connection (the location where multi-municipal trunk sewers connect to the ALCOSAN interceptors).  ACHD used the information to determine compliance with the specific requirements of the municipal administrative consent orders (ACOs) and on June 20, ACHD responded in writing to the specific municipalities that have an ACO.  In order to understand the regional impact, ACHD also summarized the estimated costs for both internal municipal and points of connection (POC) multi-municipal projects for both the sanitary and combined sewer Feasibility Studies.  Multi-municipal costs were evaluated in two separate ways, one based on the POC submissions and one based on the individual municipal submissions.  Because of the different submissions, ACHD provided a range of costs.

The total regional municipal costs range from $475 million to $506 million, which includes $72.65 million in projects internal to individual municipalities that are related to the need for increased capacity.  This total estimate also includes improvements to multi-municipal trunk sewers to convey sewage to the ALCOSAN point of connection. Costs are presented in a range because some municipalities didn’t discuss participation in the multi-municipal projects or the numbers didn’t always match those presented in the POC reports.  In addition, some of the Feasibility Studies were more comprehensive than others. 

We recommend that separate sewer communities ensure that they have reviewed their June 20 letter from ACHD regarding their compliance with the ACO.  The letter also acknowledges the study that the community conducted to evaluate their conveyance of wastewater to ALCOSAN, including estimated project costs. 

Our thanks to the Allegheny County Health Department for making their Feasibility Study review summary data available for our information. 

August 2014

This month we would like to highlight a unique project:  the Etna Borough School Street Parking Lot Green Infrastructure Project.  Completed in July, this project uses new technology, a unique stormwater best management practice (BMP) that consists of a 200-square-foot high-rate biofiltration system that directs the infiltrated water into a 1,060-cubic-foot stormwater management storage unit. The facility receives runoff from over an acre of contributing area and is projected to capture approximately 540,000 gallons of stormwater annually from the borough’s combined sewer system. This project was developed with funding assistance from the Richard King Mellon Foundation through 3 Rivers Wet Weather to show the value of adding green stormwater features as part of the reconstruction of the parking lot at a more affordable cost.

July 2014

The 3 Rivers Wet Weather 2014 Sewer Rate Study Update is now available online on the 3RWW website.

3RWW provides this information so that municipalities can compare their rates to neighboring communities.  These tables contain comparison rates to median household income allowing you to measure the current level of burden on your ratepayers.  Environmental Protection Agency guidance suggests that sewer rates in excess of two percent of median household income are considered a hardship.  (See Sewer Rate Survey Update with Median Household Income: 2014)  The sewer rate study update also contains graphic comparisons of sewer rates by Eastern, North and Southern basins. We encourage you to share this sewer rate study information with your council.

June 2014

In the time since the municipalities signed consent orders nearly a decade ago, a number of stakeholder groups have been reviewing ways in which our municipalities and the region can best address the requirements imposed by the ALCOSAN consent decree and municipal consent orders.  Most recently, these efforts have included the following: 

  • The ALCOSAN Sewer Regionalization Review Panel (SRRP) chaired by Dr. Jared Cohon, then President and currently President Emeritus of Carnegie Mellon University. SRRP recommended, among other things, that multi-municipal trunk sewer lines and existing wet weather control facilities should be transferred by the current municipal owners to ALCOSAN.

  • The Sewer Regionalization Implementation Committee (SRIC) is a broad-based group managed by 3RWW and the Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT).  Chaired by Jim Turner and
    Caren Glotfelty and includes representatives of ALCOSAN, 3RWW, various municipalities and legal and engineering consultants.  The SRIC includes a number of subcommittees to address legal, financial, source reduction and collection system issues that are associated with the trunk sewer transfer concept.  On May 21, SRIC adopted a set of recommended transaction principles developed by a core group of municipal and ALCOSAN solicitors that would govern the transfer of multi-municipal trunk sewer lines and responsibility for all related wet weather capital projects to ALCOSAN.  (A copy of these recommended transaction principals are attached.) The recommended principles have also been distributed to the solicitors for the ALCOSAN municipal customers through the 3RWW Solicitors Group. (We have scheduled a meeting of the Solicitors Group at noon on June 11 to brief them on the recommended transaction principles and other current developments.) EPA, in response to their review of the ALCOSAN wet weather plan, has indicated that it may consider revisions to the Consent Decree requirements and schedules if the region can show progress on regionalization, flow control, source reduction and green infrastructure.  The progress made by the SRIC should be seen as a positive action toward these goals.

EPA will be providing an update to the elected officials of the ALCOSAN communities at 7 p.m. on June 17, 2014 at the Hilton by DoubleTree in Greentree.  Invitations have been sent to all the local officials and administrative staff. We hope that your community will be well represented.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any part of this Manager’s Minute, feel free to contact me at jschombert@3rww.org or 412-578-7962.

May 2014

EPA Region III has scheduled a meeting in Pittsburgh on the evening of Tuesday, June 17 to provide an update to the ALCOSAN service area municipalities. The meeting will focus on next steps for implementation of a regional wet weather plan by both ALCOSAN and the service area municipalities.  In addition, they will discuss regionalization, flow control, source reduction and green stormwater infrastructure. ALCOSAN representatives and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, as well as other invited local and state officials, will provide local perspective on the wet weather issue as we move toward the implementation of a regional wet weather plan.

Please mark your calendars and share this important meeting date with your supervisors/council representatives.  We recognize the meeting may conflict with a few regularly scheduled municipal meetings, but it was the only viable date considering the number of EPA and county officials involved.  We will send out more details, including the location of the meeting, as soon as they are confirmed.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at jschombert@3rww.org or 412-578-7962.

April 2014

At the March Wet Weather Working Group (3WG) meeting, we continued the discussion on the three main factors influencing water quality over which municipalities have control and responsibility:
1. combined sewer overflows
2. separate sewer overflows
3. stormwater

If a municipality has a receiving stream that has been classified as impaired and is on PA DEP’s “2012 Pennsylvania Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report” for development of a future Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), communities should consider being proactive to determine their “exposure” for controlling the impacts of stormwater  and sewage overflows on stream water quality.  An impaired streams map and list of impaired streams and future TMDLs are available on our website.  In this way, the required costs and controls to manage both sewer overflows and stormwater impacts on streams can be determined to prioritize what controls should be implemented and when for the best and most cost-effective ways to meet overall water quality goals in a timely fashion.

To this end, the 3WG will provide a forum for municipalities that guides a stream water quality monitoring program and assures timely input from the 3WG on data collection, analysis, and plan implementation.  We will keep you updated on the progress. If you would like to discuss this topic further, please don’t hesitate to contact me, jschombert@3rww.org, (412) 578-8375. 

March 2014

At the February 13 Wet Weather Working Group meeting, we discussed an important topic: “What is the best way the best way to continue to involve and educate elected officials on wet weather requirements and goals going forward?”  Several good ideas were suggested, but we would like your input on the best approach.  Please take two minutes to click on the following link and provide your responses to our two-question survey.  3RWW Manager’s Minute 2-Question Survey

Your input is greatly appreciated.  If you have any questions or comments, my e-mail inbox and phone line are always open:  jschombert@3rww.org or (412) 578-8375. 

February 2014

Our Wet Weather Working Group (3WG) first met on January 9 with almost 60 municipal elected officials, managers, and engineers.  This group marks the evolution of the Feasibility Study Working Group to a new forum for discussing wet weather issues such as regionalization, flow control, green stormwater infrastructure, and water quality.  Our goal is to provide an opportunity for regional consensus and action on topics currently facing municipalities, which will also include the next round of enforcement from the regulatory agencies. Municipalities can expect the next regulatory requirements to address implementation of the alternatives in their feasibility studies, and municipal responsibility for water quality and stormwater management (e.g. TMDL and MS4). 

The next meeting for the 3WG will be Thursday, February 13 at 9:00 a.m. at the Green Tree Municipal Building, 10 West Manilla Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15220.  We encourage you to attend to help identify 3WG goals and objectives important to your municipality.  The main agenda item for this meeting will be a presentation on local stream segments that are on PADEP’s 303(d) list as impaired.  We will also determine our 3WG meeting frequency (e.g. – the core group meeting every other month, with subcommittees meeting monthly to work on specific issues in more detail).  If you’re not already a part of the Wet Weather Working Group and you would like to be added to the e-mail list, please contact Jodi Gamble at jgamble@3rww.org, (412) 578-8375. 

As always, I appreciate your input on how 3 Rivers Wet Weather can best serve the region in meeting our wet weather requirements and water quality objectives. 

January 2014

As we reflect on 2013, we at 3 Rivers Wet Weather recognize the time and commitment that went into your municipal feasibility studies submitted earlier this year and the progress we have made together on the wet weather issue.  In 2014, we look forward to a continuing our municipal partnerships to address topics such as regionalization and achieving water quality requirements.

As a reminder, municipal managers are invited to become members of the 3RWW Wet Weather Working  Group (formerly known as the Feasibility Study Working Group). Meetings will be held on the second Thursday each month, or less frequently.  If your municipal engineer previously participated in the Feasibility Study Working Group, they will continue to be invited to the Wet Weather Working Group meetings, unless you request otherwise. If you have not already responded to our original email invitation (sent from John Schombert on Dec. 24) and would like to join this group, please contact Jodi Gamble at jgamble@3rww.org or 412-578-8375.

Our first meeting of the Wet Weather Working Group will be January 9, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. at the Green Tree Municipal Building, 10 West Manilla Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15220.    

We wish you the best in 2014, with the following quote by Henry Ford inspiring us to continue our work together over the next year:

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”