Sewage Issues Rise to the Surface

There’s going to be a lot of attention paid to the wastewater treatment authority known as ALCOSAN. That’s because the long-lingering-in-the-background issue of how to treat overflows has a firm, but maybe not final, price tag: $2.8 billion over ten years, from 2016 through 2026. One City Councilman-ALCOSAN serves Pittsburgh and 81 other municipalities in Allegheny County-recently called the upgrades "the greatest public works project of the era".

Another City Councilman said ALCOSAN "can’t ask ratepayers to pay what they can’t afford". As of 2011 the average customer charge for wastewater treatment-based on 60,000 gallons of water a year-was $276. Rate increases of 10% a year, which was the percentage increase identified today, would result in an 150% increase in that typical annual bill amount. That’s part of the reason the Authority says they want to go back to the EPA to talk about the total amount from the consent decree.

So who will be steering the Authority through this process? The seven member board consists of three members appointed by the Mayor of Pittsburgh, three members by the Allegheny County Chief Executive, and one member jointly appointed for terms of five years. Currently there are three elected officials, two union officials, one university official, and an official of a construction company on the board according to the Authority’s website.