ALCOSAN Tours the Negley Run Watershed

Last week 15 staff and Board members of ALCOSAN took a two hour tour of the Negley Run Watershed to learn from residents why they are urging ALCOSAN to adopt a green first strategy for solving the sewage in the rivers problem – also known as the CSO problem. The tour visited a number of sites where the community has raised money for green investments and has installed green infrastructure. More importantly the tour went by areas of the Watershed where there’s a need for larger green investments that can help mitigate flooding, basements backups and where neighborhoods have not seen the transformation that green has brought to other parts of the watershed.

The tour comes at a time when ALCOSAN is preparing to sign a final consent decree with the EPA that will describe how the region will remove 10 billion gallons of sewage from our iconic three rivers. The current plan that ALCOSAN is working off is the construction of 14 miles of huge tunnels under our rivers. While these tunnels would solve the problem, they will not bring all the community benefits that a green first approach such as reduced flooding, neighborhood transformation and local jobs. The consent decree does contain language that allows us to swap out tunnels for a green approach if we can prove that green infrastructure works just as well as gray.

Zinna Scott and John Stephens welcome ALCOSAN staff and community tour goers at the Zone Five Police Station on Washington Boulevard

Zinna Scott and John Stephens welcome ALCOSAN staff and community tour goers at the Zone Five Police Station on Washington Boulevard.

The tour mimicked how water travels in the watershed. It started at the Police Station on Washington Boulevard, the scene of deadly flooding over the years, and went to the top of the watershed. It made a quick drive by of Chadwick Park and stopped at Crescent School – both of which have green installations but still much more could be done.

Ariam Ford and Dana Fowler speak to the group about Chadwick Park green projects on the way to the Crescent School.

Ariam Ford and Dana Fowler speak to the group about Chadwick Park green projects on the way to the Crescent School.

On the way to the next stop at Homewood Library the tour drove on Finance Street where a row of new homes experience frequent basement backups and flooding. At the Library, the librarian described how their basement auditorium suffered over $100,000 of damage from flooding, highlighting the costs that could be saved with one green investment.

Denise Graham, Homewood Library Librarian explaining to the crowd how the basement of the Library frequently floods and causes costly damage.

Denise Graham, Homewood Library Librarian explaining to the crowd how the basement of the Library frequently floods and causes costly damage.

Zinna Scott, Jerome Jackson of OBB and Brenda Smith at the Homewood Public Library.

Zinna Scott, Jerome Jackson of OBB, and Brenda Smith at the Homewood Public Library.

After the Library, the tour visited the EECO Center a net zero energy building with several green installations on the property. On the way back to the Police Station, a Highland Park resident described the flooding damage that her neighborhood has experienced. She asked ALCOSAN to take a green first approach so that residents’ money would get reinvested back in the neighborhoods of the region. In order to make larger green projects a reality, she said, projects like the large Negley Run project being led by PWSA need large scale investments from ALCOSAN.

At the end of the tour, the Negley Run residents asked ALCOSAN to do the right thing and go in a green first direction. Residents told ALCOSAN that it is their money that is being invested into fixing this problem and they want their money to be reinvested back in their communities through green infrastructure that comes with multiple benefits.

Tour goers learn about the grassroots project at the Crescent School.

Tour goers learn about the grassroots project at the Crescent School.

The tour would not have been possible without the support of a number of local community groups including Lincoln-Lemington Consensus Group, the Green Team, Operation Better Block, Homewood Children’s Village, Larimer Consensus Group, Highland Park Citizens Council, North Point Breeze Community Council, Grounded Solutions, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, the Negley Run Watershed Task Force and the Clean Rivers Campaign. The tour organizers also want to thank ALCOSAN and PWSA for participating in the tour.

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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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Four Mile Run Green Infrastructure Victory and Next Steps

By Tom Hoffman of the Sierra Club

Last Fall in a packed meeting room in the Sixth Presbyterian Church in Squirrel Hill, 75 Pittsburgh residents gathered to hear about the long range importance of building the Four Mile Run green infrastructure project in Schenley Park and learn how they could help make this dream a reality.

Four Mile Run Community Meeting in 2017

Four Mile Run Community Meeting in 2017

Our region needs to prove to the EPA in 5 years that green solutions can work to fix our sewage overflow problem. The Four Mile Run green project will not only help mitigate flooding in the Run, but it will play a key role in making the case to federal regulators that our region is capable of and is committed to a major green first effort to remove 9 billion gallons of sewage from our rivers. In five years those regulators will need to see large scale, monitored, operating projects that are cleaning sewage out of our rivers.

Thanks to support from the attendees at that meeting, the Mayor’s Capital Budget  which passed recently included funding to complete the final design of the Four Mile Run green infrastructure project! The next step is to draw up actual construction plans and put them out to bid. The oversight for the project has shifted from the Parks Conservancy to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. An RFP for final designs to make the project ready for construction are expected to be put out in the next few days.

Four Mile Run green infrastructure concept designs

Four Mile Run green infrastructure concept designs

The Clean Rivers Campaign played a key role in winning the money in the Mayor’s budget for 4 Mile Run. We are now shifting our attention to winning funding for construction of the project. We are also working to get other projects like the projects in Saw Mill Run and the Negley Run/Heth’s Run project funded and built.

A critical part of PWSA’s city-wide green plan are specific strategies to expand ALCOSAN’s ability to handle more water during heavy rain events. This expanded capacity works in conjunction with the green infrastructure to reduce the sewage going into our rivers. It would include specific modifications to the plant as well as maintenance and cleaning of the existing sewer lines and interceptors. These modifications could start almost immediately and would produce a large number of good paying union jobs in the near future.

The CRC is also supporting the efforts of the Our Water Campaign to keep PWSA public. Any attempt to privatize or do major restructuring in the Authority would very likely stall the implementation of the green projects as well as keeping our water safe and affordable.

Stay tuned for more activities in 2018. Contact Aly Shaw at for more information or to get involved.

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Guest Blogger Sarah Daren of Ohio University: Engineering Developments in Clean Drinking Water and Green Infrastructure

Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.

We tend to take our supply of clean drinking water for granted in the United States and other developed countries. We just turn on the tap and there it is, almost as if by magic or some sort of divine providence. Americans are major water consumers. Every day, more than 300 million Americans drink more than one billion glasses of tap water.

It is easy to forget that the clean water coming out of our faucets depends entirely on infrastructure systems and the supply of fresh water. Climate change, population growth, and an aging infrastructure are three realities that are jeopardizing our continued access to reliable and safe drinking water supplies. These factors will become even more impactful in the future, necessitating the requirement that we take action now.

Water Crisis and Climate Change

Climate change has a direct effect on our supply of fresh water. One of the most well-known effects of climate change is that of drought. Drought, a lack of rain, has an obvious and alarming impact on our fresh water supplies.

Another effect of climate change on water supplies is that of the impact of heavy rains and snow storms on combined sewers. When such extreme weather occurs, combined sewers are forced to deal with higher than normal water flows. These flows are more than twice what the existing sewers are designed to deal with. As a result, storm water and untreated wastewater move directly into city waterways, adversely affecting water quality. This phenomenon is referred to as combined sewer overflow (CSO).

Green Infrastructure Solutions and CSO

Green infrastructure is a range of storm water control measures that use plant or soil systems, permeable pavement, or storm water harvest and reuse, to store, infiltrate, or evapotranspirate storm water. Solutions can look like green roofs, green streets, bio retention swales, and other projects.

One of the most potentially helpful green infrastructure solutions is to recycle wastewater into clean drinking water. Orange County is already engaging in this practice. This location successfully treats and recycles wastewater that becomes part of the water supply for 600,000 residents. Orange County’s wastewater recycling program has a capacity of 70 million gallons per day, and is currently the largest in the world.

Additionally, Cleveland, Ohio uses large storage tunnels, improving their waste water treatment plants, and rehabilitating pumping stations. Other methods, used in Washington DC, separate the sewers in some areas, sending sewage and storm water down different pipes from each other.

Ways to Make Large-Scale Desalination Less Expensive

The vast majority of the water on earth, 96 percent, is saline, meaning only four percent is freshwater. While large-scale desalination processes are currently extremely expensive, progress is being made in finding cheaper and more sustainable methods.

University of Alexandria researchers have come up with a simpler and much less expensive desalination process. This process utilizes materials that can be produced at a lower cost, and it does not require the vast amounts of energy needed by traditional methods. The proposed method uses a two-step process called pervaporation.

The Cost of Maintenance of Current Water Infrastructure

One reason why adoption of new, green technologies is so crucial is the reality of how much it would cost to simply repair our aging water infrastructure. Some estimates signal that more than $1 trillion will be required to properly repair the country’s existing systems of underground pipes.


The threats to our drinking water supply posed by climate change, aging infrastructure, and a growing population are ignored at our great peril. We must begin immediately to ensure our clean freshwater supply in the future.

You can see the University’s “How Technology is Providing Solutions Clean Water” Infographic below!
How Technology Is Providing Solutions for Clean Water

Ohio University

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ALCOSAN’s GROW Program a Good Start but More Investment Needed

Recently through a program called the GROW Program, ALCOSAN awarded the approximately $9 million in grants to support source reduction and green infrastructure projects throughout their service area. This program is a good first step towards developing a region-wide, green first approach to our region’s sewer overflow and stormwater problems.

However, these investments are only the first step and a drop in the bucket in what will be the largest public works project our region has ever seen. In order for a green-first plan to be successful region-wide, ALCOSAN’s GROW program must be part of a scientific study that expands on the PWSA Citywide Green-First plan, they must increase the program’s funding to a total of at least $50 million in the next year, and they must remove the cap of $1 million in order to allow for larger and potentially more effective projects.

Our region has the opportunity to significantly invest in green solutions that will not only reduce combined sewer overflows but will also reduce flooding, fight climate change, and revitalize our communities. To have the most impact, ALCOSAN must quickly expand on PWSA’s green first study that addresses these problems holistically on a watershed level and invest more funds into green infrastructure projects.

As ALCOSAN continues to improve and expand the GROW program, they should also seek input from ratepayers and municipal officials who are paying for this important regional investment.

Share this article on Facebook and Twitter if you agree that ALCOSAN needs to invest in green solutions for your community!

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Serria Club and Clean Rivers Campaign Join CUSP Workshop

In Pittsburgh, the Climate and Urban Systems Partnership program, housed in the Carnegie Museum held a three hour Green Infrastructure Communication Workshop for organizations involved in installation and planning for GI projects. Tom Hoffman represented the Sierra Club and the Clean Rivers Campaign and presented on the success of the campaign’s messaging about green. He talked about the importance of communicating the community benefits and environmental justice aspects for successful green infrastructure projects.

For photos and more information check out the CUSP website here!

Cusp image 1

Cusp image 2Cusp image 3











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Advocates Praise the City’s Clean and Green Plan

Following years of research and planning, Mayor Peduto and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority have released a complete Clean and Green plan for Pittsburgh.

Read the full plan here and make sure to send your comments to PWSA here!

“The Clean Rivers Campaign and ratepayers around the City commend the Mayor and PWSA for taking the lead in creating a citywide, green-first plan that will revitalize our neighborhoods, prevent flooding, clean our waterways, and fight climate change locally,” said Jennifer Rafanan Kennedy, Director of the Clean Rivers Campaign.

According to the PWSA study, careful and strategic placement of new green infrastructure coupled with fixing the existing system could meet the first phase EPA requirements for cleaning our rivers while also reducing or preventing flooding in problem areas, and resulting in cleaner air and more green space, all at a lower cost than previously projected.

slide from Clean and Green plan

The Clean and Green plan, which the Campaign believes should be fully adopted by ALCOSAN as the means of fixing our outdated sewer system, will save money, but the cost will still be born by ratepayers, and they’ve made it clear that they want to see that money invested back into their communities through common sense green solutions. “I believe ratepayers will see this as an investment in our communities. Rate increases will be tough, so we have to see this money come back to our neighborhoods through community benefits, jobs, and customer assistance programs,” said Pittsburgh resident, Billie Vaughn.

concept design

ALCOSAN ratepayers who live outside of Pittsburgh want to see the plan expanded regionally so that they can see the same benefits for their investment. “I like the City’s plan to invest in green infrastructure, but I’m concerned that my municipality will not receive the same benefits for our investment. I would like to see this plan expanded to the whole region, not just Pittsburgh,” said Dormont Council Member, Kate Abel.

Ratepayers in surrounding municipalities will also be calling on leaders at ALCOSAN to adopt the Clean and Green plan for the entire region. If you live in the ALCOSAN service area and want to see this plan adopted for the entire region, sign a letter here to the Board Chair of ALCOSAN and let him know that you support this green-first approach!


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Mayor Peduto Releases “Clean and Green” Plan to Stop Flooding and CSOs

On September 26th at a City Council post-agenda on flooding issues, Mayor Bill Peduto along with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, unveiled the City’s Clean and Green plan to prevent flooding and solve our region’s sewer overflow problems!

The Clean and Green plan details how the City can reduce flooding and prevent Combined Sewer Overflows through strategically placed green infrastructure. The plan can even be implemented a decade sooner and at a much lower cost to ratepayers than ALCOSAN’s current tunnel plan!


The Mayor and PWSA announced that they intend to solve the root cause of our region’s flooding issues, basement backups, and combined sewer overflows by investing in better stormwater management infrastructure that captures water where it falls and optimizing the current sewer system.


Not only does this plan solve several problems with one solution, but it also generates incredible benefits for our communities. In addition to addressing CSOs, flooding, and basement backups, green infrastructure investment will create jobs, clean our air, and transform our neighborhoods with parks and other amenities. This means that ratepayers will see more of their dollars invested above ground in their communities!


The Clean Rivers Campaign would like to thank Mayor Peduto and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority for their leadership on this issue and the creation of the Clean and Green plan for our region. Now, ratepayers need to be able to access the full PWSA study and ALCOSAN ultimately needs to invest in a region-wide green-first plan that provides these benefits for all 83 municipalities and cleans our rivers!

Read the full presentation below!

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Regional Leaders Tell the EPA “We Need Clean Water, Green Infrastructure Now”

With the deadline to sign our region’s EPA Consent Decree fast approaching, eighty five local municipal and elected officials, organizational leaders, and faith leaders from all over the region have signed a letter to the EPA asking that the Consent Decree to fix our sewer system rely on up-to-date technology that will immediately begin to clean our water while maximizing solutions that meet the needs of our community. The letter calls on the EPA to allow our region to pursue a fundamentally different approach – one which focuses on upgrading and maintaining the sewer system we have, expanding treatment capacity, maximizing investment in comprehensive and strategic green infrastructure that captures rainwater before it enters the system, and then right-sizing gray infrastructure – all while creating jobs and community benefits.

With this approach, authorities and municipalities could begin to immediately invest in strategic projects that clean the rivers. “It is past time to use green solutions for managing stormwater and sewer overflows,” said Patricia DeMarco, of the Forest Hills Borough Council. “Watersheds cross many communities, so we need regional leadership to pull plans together. Using green infrastructure for watershed management prevents problems and is cost-effective. It is the most responsible way to meet the needs of our communities now, and for the future. Further delay is not justified.”

Signatories also note the huge opportunity for local, long-term job creation and the benefit of addressing multiple problems and community needs with strategic regional investment that can begin immediately. “Many effective green infrastructure solutions can be planned, implemented, and become operational in a fraction of the time and cost it takes to replace traditional underground pipes,” noted Aurora Sharrard Executive Director and Vice President of Innovation of the Green Building Alliance. “Applying green stormwater infrastructure solutions first creates an immediate opportunity for a myriad of benefits, including job creation, more green space, improved air and water quality, and more vibrant and resilient communities.”

ALCOSAN has been negotiating and planning for almost two decades, but now newer technology is available and customer municipalities and other authorities are thinking about sustainability, resilience, and regional cooperation. Now our region must coalesce around a single, effective plan. We need the EPA to regulate our region in a way that allows municipalities and residents to see above-ground benefits like flood control, parks and green spaces, and good paying jobs all while achieving clean water.“People like me are paying for this. We’re going to see our rates triple and quadruple in the next few years. We can’t spend that much money and not see benefits in our neighborhoods. I want the money I pay to be spent wisely,” said Janice Brown, resident and ratepayer in the East End.

The letter, spearheaded by the Clean Rivers Campaign, is intended to show the EPA that there is widespread, diverse support for getting started immediately with a sustainable approach that maintains and upgrades our current system and maximizes strategic green infrastructure. According to Campaign Director, Jennifer Rafanan Kennedy, “We need clean water and transformational neighborhood investment now, and with an investment this large we should choose a plan that solves multiple problems. If we can coalesce around one strategic and cost-effective plan that brings multiple solutions and benefits to our region, that’s the right way to go. Leaders across our region are telling the EPA that they want to get started right away – but we want it to be the right plan – and we hope the EPA will listen.”

Read the Letter to the EPA with 85 Signatures

If you support this effort and want to add your name, sign-up as a supporter here! 

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Lunch and Learn with Tim Duggan and Christine Mondor

On June 30th, the Clean Rivers Campaign hosted a Lunch and Learn for the Campaign’s endorsing organizations and partner municipalities at the Energy Innovation Center. Landscape architect and previous Beyond Tunnel Vision speaker, Tim Duggan of Phronesis Design and Christine Mondor of EvolveEA each discussed Green Infrastructure watershed level concept designs for priority sheds in Pittsburgh and how we can take a holistic approach to stormwater management while creating maximum community benefits.

Tim Duggan

Tim Duggan of Phronesis Design

About 40 attendees representing various environmental groups, neighborhoods, and municipalities learned from Tim Duggan about Kansas City’s shift in their Consent Decree from a plan that would have built underground tunnels to one that maximizes community benefits by investing first in Green Infrastructure. In sharing his concept design for Panther Hollow Watershed, he discussed the necessity of thinking holistically about stormwater management planning (like integrating transportation and other systems), but also about the importance of community outreach, saying “community engagement will make [these projects] sustainable.”



Christine Mondor pointing out the specifics of the Heth’s Run concept designs.

Christine Mondor, Principal of EvolveEA, who is working on the Heth’s Run project among others, underscored the importance of community engagement and presented on concept designs for Heth’s Run. With the project being a collaboration between the City of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and the Pittsburgh Zoo, concept designs that maximize community benefits are underway.



Green Infrastructure concept designs for Heth’s Run showing the added value to the neighborhood.

James Stitt from the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority closed out the session by discussing PWSA’s strategic green infrastructure planning, how the authority can play a role in helping these watershed level designs develop, and how municipalities can implement them in their own communities. Attendees also discussed how municipalities can find funding for these types of projects and generate support from their community leaders for Green Infrastructure.

"This is a whole new way of looking at infrastructure” - James Stitt, PWSA

“This is a whole new way of looking at infrastructure” – James Stitt, PWSA

Thank you to our speakers Tim Duggan, Christine Mondor, and James Stitt! Thank you to the Energy Innovation Center for hosting us! And thank you to our community partners and endorsing organizations for a great discussion!




In case you missed it, see the PowerPoints below!

Tim Duggan PowerPoint

Christine Mondor’s PowerPoint

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