Water Woes / A Federal Plan Would Jump-Start the
Aug 14, 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The $3 billion tab for upgrading the sewer lines of Alcosan and
the 83 communities it serves may not fall entirely on the customers.
That's a relief, especially since this infrastructure crisis exists
in many parts of the nation and the overhaul has been triggered by
tougher federal water standards.
That makes it perfectly understandable why the U. S. House of
Representatives is considering the Clean Water Trust Act, which
would provide $7. 5 billion annually to cover $300 billion to $500
billion in costs over two decades to repair or replace leaky,
outmoded sewerage systems around the country.
Pennsylvania alone needs $8 billion to fix its problem, with the
Allegheny County work accounting for more than a third.
Without the sewer-line repairs, rainwater infiltrates the cracked
and creaky system, forcing a system like Alcosan to treat 25 million
gallons of wastewater each day, twice as much as is recorded on
sewer bills. Until that problem is eradicated, the region is likely
to face undesirable consequences: federal fines, more river alerts
due to sewer overflows and bans on new development.
Fortunately, three Republican members of Pennsylvania's
congressional delegation spoke out last week on behalf of House Bill
4560, saying it was needed in this region and others around the
country. Reps. Phil English of Erie, Melissa Hart of Bradford Woods
and Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair made a case for the Clean Water
Trust Act, which would make aid from Washington a key ingredient in
the nationwide overhaul.
No one expects the federal government to bail out local
communities and, as Rep. English said, even state and local
resources will have to be tapped to accomplish the repairs.
Nevertheless, federal dollars are essential to getting the work
started and the environmental cleanup done. The plan deserves strong