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3 Rivers Wet Weather Awards Grants for Sewer Consolidation Studies

Dozens of Allegheny County municipalities have moved one step closer to saving their residents millions of dollars and protecting southwestern Pennsylvania’s water resources at the same time through a 3 Rivers Wet Weather (3RWW) grant program supporting sewer system consolidation studies.

3 Rivers Wet Weather (3RWW), a Lawrenceville-based non-profit organization committed to improving the region’s water quality, recently awarded a total of $495,000 to six projects representing 43 communities and authorities, who are collaborating to explore options for consolidating their sewer collection systems. 

Over the last 12 years, 3RWW has assisted 83 municipalities in addressing the wet weather sewage overflow problem by coordinating regional compliance approaches to their municipal consent orders, which require communities to assess and repair 4,000 miles of sewage collection systems in the ALCOSAN service area.  These 3RWW-led compliance projects, such as manhole mapping and flow monitoring, have consistently demonstrated the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of regional approaches.

The municipal consent orders will end in 2014 and the next phase of sewer system rehabilitation, involving large capital investments, will begin shortly thereafter.

“The current fragmented system of 83 municipalities managing small pieces of the sewage collection system will not be effective as we move forward,” said John Schombert, executive director of 3 Rivers Wet Weather.  “The most cost-effective, long-term strategy for the maintenance and operation of our public sewage system is through consolidation,” he said, “so 3 Rivers Wet Weather offered these grants to communities willing to take the first step and explore the possibilities.”

Consolidation can take many forms from simple contract operation and maintenance to more complete asset transfer.  These six studies, which will be completed by June 30, will explore a variety of options that ultimately may serve as models for other communities interested in following suit.

A summary of each of the six funded projects follows:

CONNECT (Congress of Neighboring Communities): $95,000 grant
CONNECT comprises the City of Pittsburgh and 19 municipalities whose sewage drains through the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority system.   CONNECT plans to develop and evaluate different management approaches that include:

  • The continued operations by individual agreements between PWSA and each municipality
  • What processes a municipality could use if it considered turning operations over to PWSA
  • Standardizing agreements between PWSA and all municipalities
  • ALCOSAN operating the major multijurisdictional sewer lines
  • Turning management over to PWSA or a joint authority of the participating communities

Chartiers Creek Watershed: $75,000 grant
The communities of Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon, Scott Township and Bridgeville will explore the development of a cooperative agreement related to sewer system ownership and operation in the George Run, McLaughlin Run, Painters Run and Scrubgrass sewersheds. These municipalities will report on the alternatives evaluated; an assessment of the municipal willingness to consider the management alternatives; and legal, technical and financial requirements of each alternative.

Ohio River Basin: $90,000 grant
Four neighboring communities—McKees Rocks Borough, and Stowe, Kennedy and Neville Townships—will explore the issues, benefits, costs and challenges associated with various joint management alternatives, with one of the considerations being integration of these local sewer entities into a new regional entity. At the end of their research, they will submit a report on their findings with recommendations to the communities on the alternatives evaluated.

South Fayette Township Municipal Authority: $95,000 grant
McDonald Municipal Authority, North Fayette Township, Oakdale Borough, and South Fayette Municipal Authority plan to evaluate joint sewer system management alternatives.  This group has operated for the past 20 years as an unincorporated operating committee for the Robinson Run tributary area and they will evaluate various alternatives for expanding this cooperation within Robinson Run. This project will also explore opportunities to implement expanded services for municipal sewer operation and management beyond the Robinson Run sewershed with one alternative being the possible formation of a joint sewer Authority.

Pine Creek Watershed: $55,000 grant
The Borough of Etna, and Ross, Shaler and Indiana Townships have proposed exploring options for more cost-effective sewer operation and maintenance while assuring compliance with the municipal consent orders. They will submit a report on the alternatives evaluated, including the advantages and disadvantages of each in terms of costs, efficiency, service, etc.  A range of feasible options will be examined with respect to their future viability, including: modifying shared services agreements, creating an Operating Committee, consolidation under a new entity and asset transfer options.

Munhall Sanitary Sewer Municipal Authority: $85,000 grant
Munhall Sanitary Sewer Municipal Authority, Whitaker, Homestead and West Homestead will join forces to examine all of the aspects required to effect a successful merger of various sewer services by evaluating current collection systems to identify strengths and deficiencies; and determine legal and financial concerns associated with these steps. The group will report on the alternatives evaluated.  The existing Munhall Sanitary Sewer Municipal Authority will be evaluated as the possible sewer consolidation entity for one or more of the other entities.

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