Peters Township Sanitary Authority -- Sewer Overflow
Peters Township Sanitary Authority
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Sewer Overflow

Why is the sewage overflow issue important?

Overflows not only violate the Federal Clean Water Act, but they cause a host of other problems for the community and the region as a whole. Raw sewage in our waterways causes a public health risk. Sewage discharged into the waterways often flows downstream into water treatment plant intakes. Water quality may be unacceptable for boating, swimming or fishing for many days after it stops raining. Overflows can kill fish and other river and plant life. As much as 50%-60% of inflow and infiltration comes from leaking household laterals and illegally connected roof and foundation drains. The average daily wastewater flow in the sewer system is 100 gallons per person per day. During wet weather, so much additional water gets into the sewer system through infiltration and inflow that the 100 gallon per person average can rise to 200-3,000 gallons per person, which overloads the sewer system’s carrying capacity.

Families in downstream communities may experience chronic basement backups. Children can be exposed to raw sewage from overflowing manholes in the street or by playing in streams and creeks. It impedes economic development because tap bans may be imposed restricting new houses or businesses from tapping into sewers until the problem is corrected.

What is my role as a homeowner?

Regular maintenance of your building sewer will    help to identify defects in the pipe as well as problems waiting to happen. Contracting with a plumber to inspect your building sewer with a specialized closed circuit  television camera will also identify if groundwater is leaking into your building sewer during wet weather. Have your stormwater drains checked to ensure they are not improperly connected to the sanitary sewer system. If your storm drains are connected to the sanitary sewer system, you must consult a professional to remove this prohibited connection. Consider installing a rain barrel in your yard or garden. During wet weather, the barrel collects stormwater through your home’s downspout. During dry weather, a hose connected to the barrel allows water to seep out to water your yard or garden. This helps to control stormwater, which contributes to sewage overflows polluting our waterways. Fixing the problem in our Township will  require a substantial financial investment. While the Authority is seeking the most cost effective methods for a solution, homeowners can expect higher sewage rates over the coming years  unless everyone works together to reduce the affects of wet weather. It will take the cooperation and support of many individuals and communities to ensure a solution that will protect our region’s water resources.

What causes the sewage to overflow?

During wet weather (rain or snow melt), too much stormwater gets into the sanitary sewer system, which is the set of pipes designed to carry only wastewater. The pipes are not designed to handle the extra volume of stormwater during rainy weather, so raw sewage overflows into our waterways before reaching the treatment plant. Stormwater is carried in a separate system and is discharged directly into streams.

How does the stormwater get into a sanitary sewer system?

A significant part of the overflow problem is linked to improperly connected roof and driveway drains and deteriorating building sewers, which allow stormwater to get into the sanitary sewer system. This inflow results in overloading and overflows. The Authority tests for improper or poor connections with a dye that traces the path of stormwater from your home’s drains and rain spouts. Homeowners are responsible for removing improper connections and repairing deteriorated building drains. New technologies can make parts of the repair possible without digging up a homeowner’s property. Stormwater can also enter the sanitary system through cracked or broken pipes. This is called infiltration.

What is being done about the problem?

The Authority budgets funds annually to inspect and rehabilitate the main sewer line and manholes that collect sewage and convey it to the two treatment plants. The Authority’s  maintenance and repair strategy for the sewer system is to inspect, via close circuit TV, 24,000 feet and rehabilitate 12,000 feet of sewer each year. The Authority, as well as municipal officials from 83 communities in the ALCOSAN (Allegheny County Sanitary Authority) service area, has been meeting for more than a year to work on cooperative strategies to solve this problem.