Alcosan can modify costly sewer plan, federal government says

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The U.S. Department of Justice is willing to modify the consent decree between Alcosan and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding sanitary sewer overflows, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority said today.

The consent decree, set by a 2008 order, required that Alcosan eliminate all illegal sanitary sewer overflows into the region's rivers and reduce overflow from combined sewers by 2026.

Alcosan, in a news release today, said it received word from the Department of Justice that "indicated a willingness on the part of the government agencies to modify the consent decree."

It also "proposes a specific path forward" for Alcosan and regulatory agencies including the EPA, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Allegheny County Health Department to negotiate a "mutually acceptable agreement" by the end of April.

The letter comes one week after the EPA said Alcosan's proposed $2 billion wet weather sewer system improvement plan was deficient and didn't comply with some of the goals set by the 2008 order.

The EPA did not, however, formally disapprove of the plan, and it did say in last week's letter that the Department of Justice would soon contact Alcosan to propose resolving problems with it.

Arletta Scott Williams, the executive director of Alcosan, called today's development "good news."

It indicates that agencies are willing to discuss modifying Alcosan's wet weather plan, she said in a phone interview.

"I think everything's on the table, and green [infrastructure], and flow reduction, is part of that," she said.

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.

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