Pitt Graduate Student Projects Make the Case For Green Solutions for Pittsburgh’s Sewage Overflow Problems

This Spring term was a big one for students promoting a green first approach to solving our region’s sewage overflow problems. Projects by students from the Master of Social Work Program and the Katz School Woodcock Fellowship highlighted college students’ commitment to our region’s environment and support for large investments in green. Both groups emphasized that green first approaches give us cleaner water and bring multiple community benefits back to our neighborhoods.

pitt students

During the 2018 Spring semester The Clean Rivers Campaign worked with two graduate degree projects to study both the benefits of green approaches to controlling sewage overflows and creative funding mechanisms for those projects. The Pittsburgh region is under a federal consent decree to remove 9 billion gallons of sewage from the Three Rivers and the student projects both highlighted the benefits of a green first solution.

Two Katz Business School students, as part of the Woodcock Fellowship, conducted a semester-long research project for their Masters thesis on funding green infrastructure in Pittsburgh. They assessed Pittsburgh’s current situation, and studied the successes cities like Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Washington DC have had implementing green solutions by using social or environmental impact bonds and stormwater retention credits (SRCs).

“After looking at four different cities that have gone through the process of planning, funding, and successfully creating green infrastructure within their communities, we were able to understand the various financial opportunities for communities to make a better environmental impact for generations to come. Our research allowed us to make recommendations that would save money while simultaneously enhancing the community and reducing stormwater pollution in the city of Pittsburgh” said Maegan Capuano who worked with her fellow student Jasmeen Kaur on the project.

Four students in Pitt’s MSW program, Kylea Covaleski, Andi Thieman, Julie Brewer and Makenzie White focused their attention on the Four Mile Run green project in Panther Hollow. They noted that stormwater from Pitt’s campus is a major contributor to the overflows and flooding in the Run neighborhood in Hazlewood. The students hosted a standing room only meeting for Pitt faculty and students where a representative of PWSA detailed the importance of the Four Mile Run green project in removing 30 million gallons of sewage from the Monongahela and reducing dangerous flooding in the Run neighborhood.

The students also circulated a resolution asking the University of Pittsburgh to use its considerable resources to continue to study and improve its current initiatives on sustainable buildings and stormwater runoff reductions. Seventy-six students – including leaders of 15 major Pitt student and community organizations – signed the resolution before it was sent to the Pitt administration.

Said Julie Brewer, one of the students who worked on the research, “We are organizing to demand that the University of Pittsburgh commit to using our resources to help manage stormwater through green infrastructure that will help bring community benefits, mitigate flooding, and reduce Combined Sewer Overflows.”

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