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Mapping of New Kensington pipes to target overflow

The Municipal Sanitary Authority of New Kensington is about to move into the next phase of its plan to prevent untreated sewage from overflowing into the Allegheny River during heavy rain.

The authority and its member communities have been under a consent order from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to address the overflows. The authority serves about 30,000 customers in New Kensington, Arnold, Lower Burrell and a small portion of Plum.

Authority Engineer Kemal Niksic with the firm Hatch Mott MacDonald said the combined sanitary and storm sewers serving all of Arnold and downtown New Kensington are the largest contributors to the overflows. Excess water also infiltrates the system from improper stormwater connections, cracks and leaks throughout the service area, he said.

The authority completed one step in the agreement with the EPA early this year: developing a nine-point maintenance program for the combined sewers in Arnold and New Kensington and creating ways to better inform the public of the authority’s plans.

The next step — an intensive inspection and mapping of all the major pipes, manholes and connections throughout the system — will be completed by the end of the year. The mapping involved 162 miles of pipe, 4,000 manholes and 1,000 stormwater catch basins.

Niksic and Tony Males, a consulting engineer who works for Lower Burrell, the Lower Burrell Municipal Authority and New Kensington, said the next phase will involve installing meters at major points to monitor the speed, amount and even the quality of the sewage as it flows through the pipes.

Niksic estimated 90 meters will be installed throughout the system, although the number and placement has not been finalized.

The EPA agreement requires the authority to complete a monitoring plan and acquire the equipment by next September. The system then will be monitored for about a year. Niksic said if rainfall is below average from September 2011 to September 2012, the monitoring may be extended to gather enough data.

Niksic said the combination of mapping and monitoring should give the authority very accurate data on how much sewage flows through the pipes during certain amounts of rainfall. That will allow officials to determine when and where overflows occur.

The final requirement in the EPA consent order is to submit a long-range plan for addressing the overflows.

The plan is due by September 2014, but Niksic and authority Manager Dan “Skip” Rowe cautioned that won’t be the end of the work.

“That’s just the beginning,” Rowe said.

Niksic estimated it will take the authority and the communities 15 to 20 years to upgrade the sewer system until it is in full compliance.

As the scope of work is unknown, no cost estimates were discussed at a presentation Wednesday.

Ratepayers likely will foot the eventual bill, Rowe said.

He noted the authority has spent about $20 million on the treatment plant along Industrial Boulevard, which should increase capacity from about 6 million gallons to 30 million gallons per day by the end of the year.

The challenge will be to keep all the municipalities working together and agreeing to share the costs, he said.

The New Kensington authority’s problems are not unique: The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (Alcosan) and the Kiski Valley Water Pollution Control Authority also are under mandates to reduce their overflows.

The Kiski Valley authority plans a plant upgrade and recently announced a controversial plan to charge higher rates to the communities that contribute the bulk of the combined sewage.

“It’s going to take a lot of communication and cooperation,” Niksic agreed.

Additional Information:

On the Web

Information about the consent order and updates on the authority’s progress are available online at www.msank.org.


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