The ALCOSAN Draft “Wet Weather Plan” for satisfying the federal decree mandating that we stop letting our sewers overflow when it rains thereby allowing so much poop into our rivers can be found here.
Good luck with it.
Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto describes that plan as “huge holding tanks under our rivers and a series of smaller tanks throughout the city to trap excess stormwater and wastewater until it can be safely released for treatment” — which looks about right, near as I can tell.
He goes on to recommend that we utilize parks, ponds, community gardens, permeable pavements, green rooftops, tree plantings and rain barrels to limit the amount of rain water that needs to enter the sewage system in the first place. And furthermore, that this will save us all money on steel, concrete and boring machines. (RPghN and BP.com)
Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald was reported also to be “urging” ALCOSAN at community meetings to incorporate such green tactics.
This seemed strange, since ALCOSAN stands for Allegheny County Sanitary Authority — 3 of whose seven board members are appointed by the County Executive himself, 3 by the Mayor of Pittsburgh (Luke Ravenstahl) and one jointly by them both. Why can’t Fitzgerald simply instruct his board members to do what he wants?
“Rain water is not free. We’re all paying for how we handle it,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “Alcosan, if it can divert some of it to green spaces, parks and gardens, won’t have to pay to treat it.” (P-G, Don Hopey)
Make it so, numba one! Am I right?
Well, the main reason this is going to be difficult is…
Alcosan has said it’s been on their minds — but that implementing or ordering use of those technologies in municipalities is not within the authority’s purview. Executive director Arletta Scott Williams further explained that if municipalities include “green infrastructure” in future plans they submit to Alcosan, the authority will consider them.
“We fully support that,” Ms. Williams said. “We would like to see the municipalities implement more green.” (P-G, Molly Born)
Neither ALCOSAN nor Allegheny County can simply tell its 130 municipalities and umpteen millions of private property owners to replace asphalt and use rain barrels. The municipalities themselves can use zoning and other law to influence development — but that’s a slow process even if they each are in the mood to undertake it.
Which leads us to the next Peduto idea…
A stormwater utility is a governmental entity – usually an independent authority or a branch of the municipal water system – that levies a fee on property owners, from owners of single family homes to owners of large retail or industrial facilities, for how much excess stormwater enters the system from their property. In effect, a stormwater utility puts a price on runoff. One of the benefits of a stormwater utility is that a cost that was previously invisible – stormwater runoff – is brought out into the open and property owners are held accountable for their impact on the overall system. We’re all already paying for stormwater in our water and sewer bills, but in a stormwater utility system the property owners that are contributing most to the problem pay the most and those that are taking steps to reduce their impact pay less or even get credits for the improvements they make. Thus, a tangible financial incentive for improving stormwater management is created. (RPghN)