Our Water Our Rivers Campaign calls on ALCOSAN to invest in green solutions, address climate crisis and local flooding

Following ALCOSAN’s announcement that the EPA approved its Clean Water Plan, the Our Water Our Rivers Campaign, Rep. Sara Innamorato, local residents, and other environmental and infrastructure groups called for ALCOSAN to invest more in green solutions. The solution to the sewer overflow problem that ALCOSAN submitted to the EPA involves building large concrete tunnels under all three rivers, which would use a massive amount of concrete – and only solve one problem. The concrete industry is one of the largest producers of carbon dioxide; the main driver for climate chaos.

Thankfully, the Our Water Our Rivers Campaign won a major victory for consumers by securing flexibility in the consent decree that allows the region to “swap out” a portion of the deep tunnels for more modern green solutions that produce multiple benefits, including cleaner water and long term local jobs. ALCOSAN needs to take advantage of this flexibility by investing in large scale green projects. This fix to our sewers is bigger than Heinz Stadium, PNC Park, The PPG Paints Arena, The Convention Center, and the new airport upgrades combined – we need to make sure we get the most return possible for our money.

“We need to act quickly and aggressively with green investments that protect our residents and make our communities more resilient to climate change–particularly those most vulnerable communities,” said Rev. Dr. Vincent Kolb, Pastor, 6th Presbyterian Church. Rev. Kolb continued, “The tunnels will do nothing to help solve the dangerous and deadly flooding on Washington Boulevard and Route 51. We need fewer cement underground tunnels and more green above-ground projects that will address the perils of climate change, much of which we are already seeing in the form of flooding, basement backups, and poor air quality.”

The City of Pittsburgh is leading the way with a green-first plan that emphasizes green strategies followed by right-sized gray infrastructure. The plan removes sewage from our rivers, tackles the problems of landslides, flooding and basement backups, revitalizes communities, and makes them more resilient to the climate chaos we’re already seeing. It is imperative that ALCOSAN invests in this more modern approach.

Said Aly Shaw, Environmental Justice Organizer at Pittsburgh United, “We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to both clean our rivers and help solve our region’s climate impacts by investing in green infrastructure, which captures significant carbon dioxide, preventing future climate instability. The largest public works project in our history must include more money to reduce flooding and landslides, create local jobs and revitalize our neighborhoods with green solutions. As a community, we can do better than this plan. I encourage everyone in the ALCOSAN service area to contact their elected officials and submit a public comment to the EPA urging a shift towards a Green first approach.” 

“As our sewage rates continue to increase, I want to see that money come back to our communities in the form of green, sustainable investments that make the most efficient and impactful use of ratepayer dollars. With so many communities in need of serious local and regional green infrastructure upgrades to improve their resilience in the face of the growing impacts of our changing climate and mitigate our unprecedented regional flooding challenges, it’s critical that ALCOSAN demonstrates leadership in prioritizing green infrastructure solutions for our communities,” said Brittany Reno, council president of Sharpsburg Borough.

“As the largest-ever infrastructure investment in the region, it is vital that we prioritize green and sustainable planning and design,” said Rep. Sara Innamorato. “Ignoring the climate values of this investment would be nothing short of irresponsible. PWSA’s green-first plan removes sewage from our rivers, tackles the problems of landslides, flooding and basement backups, and revitalizes communities. In other cities, similar plans have produced many long-term, good-paying local jobs in communities that sorely need them. We can solve multiple problems with one solution with a green approach. ALCOSAN needs to take advantage of this opportunity and invest in projects that will have long-term benefits for both the climate and communities.”

The Consent Decree is only one of several possibilities. The ALCOSAN Board, elected leaders, and ratepayers can still have a say in changes to this deal negotiated between EPA and ALCOSAN. The Our Water Our Rivers campaign urges all residents within the ALCOSAN service area to submit a comment to the EPA urging a shift towards a green-first approach during over the next 60 days.

Our Water Campaign

Safe, Affordable, Publicly-Controlled Water for All

The Our Water Campaign is a coalition of local organizations, including Pittsburgh United, Clean Water Action, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, Sierra Club, the Hill District Consensus Group, Nine Mile Run Watershed, Penn Future, Thomas Merton Center, and One Pennsylvania. The campaign was formed to ensure safe, affordable, publicly controlled water for all. Aqua America is the latest private water company to make a bid to privatize Pittsburgh’s water system – read more about the corporation’s record labor, water quality, and water rates here. 

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