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2013 Manager's Minutes


December 2013

Last month we provided an update on the current status of the governance and sewer regionalization committees’ progress in addressing the recommendations of the Sewer Regionalization Evaluation.  Since that update, the IOP Governance Committee members toured the ALCOSAN plant to understand the complexity of the infrastructure while the 3RWW/CONNECT Sewer Regionalization Implementation Committee held its inaugural meeting. 3 Rivers continues to provide updates to various stakeholder and basin groups.  At a November 21 meeting, municipal solicitors received an ALCOSAN update on the status of the wet weather plan, and were informed of the need for municipal solicitor representation on the Sewer Regionalization Implementation Committee since the discussion will focus on the potential transfer of multi-municipal trunk sewer ownership and the liability for associated wet weather control projects to ALCOSAN.  Two municipal solicitors were invited to join the stakeholders on this committee. A core solicitor’s advisory group will provide legal guidance to the full committee.   We will provide periodic progress reports through the Manager’s Minute for you and your elected officials.

A quick reminder as you finalize your municipal budget for 2014: 3RWW has two valuable tools available to you on our website. Here you will find our 2013 updated sewer rate study to assist you as you evaluate whether your sewer billings are sufficient to meet your overall sewer expenditures. You will also find a budget template to help you determine your actual sewer operations and maintenance costs.  If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact John Schombert at jschombert@3rww.org or 412-578-7962. 


November 2013

In March 2013 Allegheny County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald, and ALCOSAN Executive Director Arletta Williams held a press conference to announce recommendations outlined in the Sewer Regionalization Evaluation.  A committee of 35 stakeholders chaired by Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohen published the evaluation after an 18-month study.

Since the evaluation’s release, several groups have been working on implementation of the key recommendations.  The University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics (IOP) has established a working group of stakeholders comprising county and local officials, authorities, Council of Government directors and other stakeholders, who will spend the next six months evaluating  possible changes to ALCOSAN’s Board of Directors to more closely represent the customer municipalities.

Concurrently, and supported by a grant from the Colcom Foundation, 3 Rivers Wet Weather and CONNECT are establishing a committee of stakeholders to develop the legal framework needed for transfer of inter-municipal conveyance lines, trunk sewers and upstream wet weather facilities to ALCOSAN, including any existing and proposed wet weather infrastructure included in the municipal feasibility studies.  The participants include ALCOSAN representatives, Al

legheny County Councils of Governments (COGs), the County Executive’s office, municipalities (including elected officials, managers, solicitors and engineers), 3RWW basin groups, CMAC, PWSA and others. This committee will also look at source reduction incentives and a consensus process to provide an alternative for voluntary consolidation of municipal sewer and stormwater systems.  This committee’s deliverables are anticipated to be available in about a year.


October 2013

As you may know, ALCOSAN, in response to public comment during the roll-out of their draft wet weather plan, initiated a study of source reduction and green infrastructure options in their customer communities.   3 Rivers Wet Weather is assisting ALCOSAN in the development of the plan, building on our success in three pilot sewersheds.  At the engineers’ working group meeting on September 12, ALCOSAN presented a progress report on their process for identifying potential communities and locations to evaluate cost-effective green infrastructure options. The discussion focused on green infrastructure as an alternative to reduce the costs for managing wet weather overflows while increasing a community’s quality of life with environmentally sensitive initiatives likely to attract and keep younger residents in the region.

ALCOSAN will be initiating working sessions with municipal staff and elected officials to explore opportunities for implementing green stormwater infrastructure and/or inflow and infiltration reduction practices. These meetings may include neighboring municipalities to gain input into source reduction and green infrastructure options within sewersheds.  Please let ALCOSAN know if you have an interest in GI in your community or would like to suggest potential locations. 

For separate sewer communities, now is a good time to evaluate and plan for springtime source flow isolation studies to locate areas of excessive infiltration.  Guidance for these studies can be found on the 3RWW Municipal Data Support Site at mds.3riverswetweather.org  in FSWG Document 009 “I/I Screening Guideline/Flow Isolation Study Decision Criteria Guidelines” and  Document 012 “Guidelines for the Performance of Flow Isolation Studies.” For more information or questions, contact John Schombert at jschombert@3rww.org or 412-578-7962.

September 2013

The significant storms of this summer have provided an unfortunate reminder of the need to develop and implement plans that protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents for storm-related issues. MS4 stormwater permits are now being renewed by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for separate sewer municipalities who will be required to gather the data needed to comply.  It is anticipated that the MS4 program will result in identification of costly, but necessary storm system improvements.

In a related but separate issue, DEP has completed a list of Impaired Streams under section 303d of the Federal Clean Water Act, and will be establishing pollutants that must be controlled within a defined period of time (15 years). Many of our local streams have already been classified as  impaired and total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) have been established. In many cases these pollutants are stormwater-related. Moving forward, 3 Rivers will provide support to municipalities for the MS4/TMDL issues. If you have questions, please don't hesitate to contact John Schombert at 412-578-8375 or jschombert@3rww.org.

August 2013

The 3 Rivers Wet Weather 2013 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: 2013)  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.


July 2013

At the end of this month, ALCOSAN service area communities will submit their Feasibility Studies to the regulatory agencies.  So what’s next?   While the regulatory agencies are reviewing the Feasibility Studies and preparing Implementation Orders, communities should:  

  • Continue their operations and maintenance responsibilities for their systems;
  • Evaluate opportunities to implement green infrastructure and other source reduction processes;
  • Review the University of Pittsburgh Environmental Law Clinic evaluation of municipal codes and ordinances for recommendations on making your ordinances more stormwater- friendly. (A report link was e-mailed to your municipality on June 18. The report can be accessed on the 3RWW website).
  • Municipalities with separate storm and sanitary systems should become familiar with the upcoming MS4 Phase II requirements for stormwater management;
  • Evaluate opportunities for sewage collection system consolidation for improved efficiency and operations.  

3RWW will continue to support the municipalities in meeting their ongoing wet weather planning and management requirements.  Some of the highest priority issues that we would like to assist municipalities with are: affordability, implementing the recommendations in the Regionalization Study, codes and ordinance review for green infrastructure, and finding the most efficient and economical  ways to achieve regional water quality goals in our region.   As always, if there are other ways that 3 Rivers Wet Weather can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


June 2013

We are pleased to report this month on our joint meeting of the Elected Officials Basin Groups on May 29, 2013 at the Green Tree Municipal Building.  About 75 basin group members, managers, elected officials , engineers and other key leaders, including County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and ALCOSAN Executive Director Arletta Scott Williams, joined together to discuss our region’s milestones and next steps.  County Executive Fitzgerald pledged the County’s commitment to green infrastructure and developing the Act 167 County Stormwater Management Plan. Colleen Hughes from CDM Smith presented an overview of the ALCOSAN Green Infrastructure & Source Control Study and the Wet Weather Plan, and John Schombert, of 3 Rivers Wet Weather provided an update on the Feasibility Study Process and Memorandum of Understanding. Below are a few of the points of discussion from the evening.  

  • The financial burden and affordability of the required infrastructure needed to manage our wet weather is a very important element in ALCOSAN’s discussions with the regulatory agencies.  ALCOSAN submitted several variations of the WWP based upon their affordability analysis for our region.  
  • After submitting a request to the regulatory agencies requesting an 18-month extension to evaluate green infrastructure and source controls, ALCOSAN developed a plan for evaluation, which includes these eight tasks: 
    Task 1: Overflow reduction potential
    Task 2: Municipal opportunities assessment and demonstration projects
    Task 3: Gray/green hybrid alternatives
    Task 4: Institutional assessment
    Task 5: Financial incentives analysis
    Task 6: Coordinate with municipal feasibility studies
    Task 7: Public and stakeholder involvement
    Task 8: Update WWP  
  • Comments received on the ALCOSAN WWP (from July-October 2012) showed the public’s top priority is green infrastructure while municipalities focused on municipal feasibility study coordination.
  • Memoranda of Understanding are not a requirement under the Consent Order Agreements.  However, they were specifically requested by PA DEP and the ACHD and serve to document that municipalities are in agreement on a solution and how costs will be shared by the municipalities for the alternatives selected in complex sewersheds, which typically involve multi-municipal points of connection.  
  • Many places across the U.S. are providing incentives for source controls and/or fees based on impervious surface draining to the sewer system.  
  • An attendee noted that our top priority should be attaining water quality through the lowest-cost options rather than necessarily emphasizing  green infrastructure over gray infrastructure.  
  • Poorly maintained lateral sewer lines on private property were discussed as a significant contributor to infiltration problems, and programs to remedy this have shown positive results, but it has been hard to quantify exact reductions in flow.   

We plan to schedule another meeting in Fall 2013.  Please let us know if there is a particular topic that you would like to suggest for the agenda that would be of benefit for discussion by the group. 


May 2013

SAVE THE DATE:  Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 6:30 p.m. at the Greentree Municipal Building For a joint meeting of the 3RWW Eastern, Northern & Southern Basin Groups   All municipalities should have two municipal officials identified as 3RWW basin group members.  Please encourage these officials to attend this important meeting for an update on the municipal consent order feasibility studies, ALCOSAN Wet Weather Plan and the Regionalization Study results.  Allegheny County Executive Richard Fitzgerald will be our special guest and an ALCOSAN representative will give an overview of their plan for regional evaluation of green infrastructure.  Refreshments will be served.   A detailed agenda will follow soon.  As always, we welcome the attendance of municipal managers as well.  


April 2013

After nearly 18 months of research, an independent 34-member review panel released its findings of the “Sewer Regionalization Evaluation,” which concluded that a more regional approach to stormwater and wastewater management would provide better service and water quality for residents, businesses, and communities in the ALCOSAN service area. The panel, chaired by chaired by Carnegie Mellon University President Jared Cohon, was convened by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development at the request of ALCOSAN. 

We strongly encourage municipalities to review the recommendations of the study as it will have an impact on the final regional wet weather plan. (The executive summary and the full report can be viewed on ALCOSAN’s website. ) 3RWW is planning a joint Elected Officials Basin Group Meeting for the last week in April. (Details to follow.) The agenda will include a presentation on the regionalization study, as well as an opportunity for attendees to ask questions about how the review panel’s findings might impact municipal wet weather plans.


March 2013

The EPA is encouraging communities to help meet their Clean Water Act obligations by evaluating opportunities for green infrastructure (GI) where cost-effective and appropriate.  Municipal elected officials play an important role in deciding how and where source reduction methods, including green infrastructure—rain gardens, bioswales, pervious pavement, etc.—can be integrated into municipal wet weather planning.  Each community should evaluate how GI can help to capture and infiltrate stormwater where it falls. 

To help municipal officials learn more, 3RWW and the Allegheny and Westmoreland County Conservation districts are co-hosting a workshop –Smart Stormwater Management for Municipal Officials at 6 p.m. on March 26 at the North Huntingdon Municipal Building orMarch 27 at the Green Tree Fire Department.  Glen Abrams from the Philadelphia Water Department will present cost-effective, practical source reduction methods.  Participants will also receive a handbook of typical best management practices.  For more information, see the attached flier or to register by March 19, visit wcdpa.com.

February 2013

In the December 2012 Managers’ Minute we provided some suggested guidelines for developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) related to the municipal feasibility studies.  This month we are providing a more detailed version of a model MOU, which municipalities in multi-municipal sewersheds can use as a template if they will be submitting a Point of Connection (POC) Feasibility Study Report.  MOUs will need to be prepared for each Point of Connection, signed by the municipalities that are part of that POC, and submitted with the feasibility study. 

As noted in the model MOU, the MOU will need to include such information as the description of the projects in that POC, the level of sewage control for the projects, the preliminary cost estimates, and how the costs (including capital construction, financing, engineering, legal, and land or right-of-way acquisition) will be allocated among the municipalities in that POC.  In most cases, the MOU will be modified at a future time as the final design proceeds, and formalized into an inter-municipal agreement prior to the implementation of the plan.

If you have any questions, please contact John Schombert, jschombert@3rww.org, (412) 578-7962.

January 2013

The 3RWW Feasibility Study Work Group (FSWG) has drafted two optional “templates” to assist municipalities in preparing their Feasibility Study Reports, due in July 2013 - a “Municipality Feasibility Study Model Report” and a “Point of Connection (POC) Feasibility Study Model Report.”  The links for these Model Report templates will be distributed to the municipal engineers early next week, and we will also copy municipal managers. 

Municipalities must submit a Feasibility Study Report to the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) or the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental (PADEP) to fulfill the municipal consent order requirements.  In addition, ALCOSAN has requested that POC Feasibility Study Reports be prepared for “complex” sewersheds as defined by ALCOSAN.  Municipalities that are in a “complex” sewershed should submit a POC Feasibility Study as an attachment to the Municipality Feasibility Study Report submitted to the regulatory agencies. 

These Model Report templates provide a framework that the municipal or POC representative can use to insert information, and they include the Feasibility Study Report guidelines provided by PADEP/ACHD. The following should be noted when completing the Feasibility Study Reports:

  • The Model Report templates contain standard text provided by the 3RWW FSWG and sections that must be completed by the municipal or POC representative.
  • Standard text should be reviewed by the municipal or POC representative to verify and ensure that the standard text is applicable for the specific municipality or POC.  The standard text can and should be modified as appropriate.

The Model Reports will soon be available as Microsoft Word documents on the 3RWW website. Each report has a one-page instruction sheet (Feasibility Study Model Report Template Instructions and Point of Connection Feasbility Study Model Report Template Instructions.) for use and formatting. If updates are made to this template, the revisions will be summarized in a separate Word document available with the updated Model Report template on the website, and revisions will also be announced at the monthly 3RWW Feasibility Study Work Group Meetings, and emailed to the engineers. 

If you have any questions, please contact John Schombert, jschombert@3rww.org, (412) 578-7962.