Pittsburgh Sewer System Overhaul Receives $30M Contract

Pittsburgh’s sewer systems are in dire need of a $2 billion upgrade, which is kicking off with a $30 million contract. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette claims that the area’s sewer systems are designed to bring waste to the Alcosan’s plant near the Ohio river. The plant is designed to handle Pittsburgh’s and the 82 surrounding municipalities’ waste water.

The systems, many of them over 100 years old and made of brick, are becoming overwhelmed when heavy rains back up the sewers.

“Sewage pipes are a network of pipes located underground. Their primary purpose is to move wastewater away from your house and connects to the main sewer line. If you notice any discoloration on your flooring or wall, you probably have a leak. Even if you don’t see any discoloration, check your bathroom floor for any spongy spots that seem softer than usual,” states a leading plumber in Ventura, CA.

Antiquated sewer lines in homes and businesses were often made of brick and installed when the city’s population first started to grow. The city’s growth and lack of proper sewer system upgrades has led to waste water making its way into nearby rivers. The EPA suggested in 2004 that some 16 billion gallons of raw sewage was dumped into rivers.

Studies today suggest that the overflow problem is more accurately around 9 billion gallons of waste water per year flowing into lakes and streams.

Residents have been urged to check their area’s overflow status.

The Alcosan plant will receive a $300 million expansion that will be part of the overall sewer system upgrade, which will cost the city an estimated $2 billion. The plant’s expansion will be overseen by Michael Baker International and will takes years to complete. The entire sewer system upgrade is expected to be completed by 2027.

The plant’s capacity will be doubled for both storm water and waste water. Michael Baker will receive $30 million to oversee the project to make sure that the expansion meets all regulations. Baker will also be responsible for keeping the project on schedule. Cost control will additionally be part of Baker’s responsibilities.

Once the expansion is completed, it is expected to stop 3 billion gallons of waste water from flowing into rivers and streams annually.

The plant’s expansion, while a small part of the overall project, is expected to provide the biggest relief to the older sewer system structure in the area.

The EPA has been pushing for a reduction in overflow for years. An amended consent decree with strict timelines is expected to keep the upgrade on track.

Alcosan will also be working on additional methods to reduce overflow that will include improving main sewer trunk links. Greenscape projects are also expected to follow that will be able to absorb additional storm water. Underground holding tunnels are also being explored as an option. The tunnels would act as a giant holding center for water that cannot be treated during massive storms.

The additional work may take as long as 2037, according to some accounts.

The wastewater plant must remain operational during the expansion process, which will be the hardest part of the process. The plant will undergo modifications and additions, so workers must ensure that the work they perform doesn’t interfere with the plant’s current operation.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.