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Nearly 30 years after the federal Water Quality Act of 1987 was signed, the 13 municipalities making up the Kiski Valley Water Pollution Control Authority are in compliance.
It took a couple of decades of lawsuits, countersuits, delays, threats, concerns about nuclear contamination and other roadblocks to get everybody on board.
A 1994 directive that developed from the 1987 legislation was a mandate that municipalities have separate pipes for stormwater and raw sewage.
In many older communities, lines that were installed as far back as the 1890s had sewage and stormwater, much of it from residential downspouts, flowing in the same pipes. During heavy thunderstorms, the system became overwhelmed and raw sewage would pour into the Kiski River, which leads to municipal water sources along the Allegheny River.
“Everyone has met compliance,” said Dennis Duryea, KVWPCA general manager.
To treat a larger amount of sewage, the Kiski Valley plant had doubled its capacity at its headquarters in the Pine Run section of Allegheny Township.
It can treat up to 7 million gallons per day and can accept 31 million gallons on a given day. The treatment plant averages about 3 million to 4 million gallons in an average day.
“The new plant operation is going very well,” Duryea said. “After a period of rain, we can treat every drop.”
Now, flow monitors have been installed in the 13 municipalities to determine how much each area is contributing.
That's important to a town such as Vandergrift, where, if its new system is eliminating enough flow getting away to the Kiski River, the borough won't have to spend millions of dollars for Phase III of its system overhaul to separate the remaining pipes.
“All the data needs to be collected for about six months,” Duryea said. “Starting in June, we'll be able so see data as to how it's working.”
But getting to this point hasn't been easy.
Some municipalities were waiting for a “drop-dead” date to get their separation projects started.
In Apollo's case, there were concerns about disturbing contaminated soil when excavation for new lines was planned. A nuclear fuels plant, which ceased operations in 1983, was razed and decontaminated in 1995 but remained a community concern.
The Kiski Valley plant is looking at new ways to process sludge that is eventually sent to landfills.
The Unity Township Municipal Authority is collaborating with Latrobe and Derry on an agreement to address stormwater that overflows the Latrobe treatment plant and spills untreated sewage into Loyalhanna Creek.
“We're in the process now of following compliance steps,” said operations manager Doug Pike. “The next move is to prepare a (state Act) 537 plan (to address overflows) that each community will have to implement.”
The Unity system, which serves 7,200 customers, already has a separate stormwater and sanitary system.
Long-term control plans
The Tarentum-based Upper Allegheny Joint Sanitary Authority and the Harmar-based Allegheny Valley Joint Sanitary Authority are looking at long-term control plans.
In Upper Allegheny's case, the authority is planning to capture stormwater flowing from hillsides in the Natrona section of Harrison and the Creighton section of East Deer. The water would flow toward the authority's treatment plant in East Deer through its own pipes so it won't infiltrate the sewerage system.
“We've submitted a plan to the state DEP,” Upper Allegheny General Manager Tim Kuhns said.
The project is scheduled for 2020 and will add about 69 cents monthly to the average customer's bill.
Allegheny Valley is looking to comply with the ongoing consent order, according to plant manager Mike Henry.
“We have an ongoing consent order,” Henry said. “We've addressed everything and identified separate sanitary sewer overflows. The consent order gives us three years. We can't have any overflows in the system.”
Henry wants to meet with representatives of the municipalities served to determine future needs.
George Guido is a contributing writer.
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