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City Unveils Plan To Help Residents Whose Homes Failed Dye Test

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Folks in Brookline, Carrick and Beechview have the same problem; they can't sell their homes because they failed what's known as a dye test.

"We had a buyer - $55,000 on this house. Thanks to PWSA, we lost the buyer," said Barbara Mazzella, of Brookline.

It's part of a federal consent order to keep storm water out of the sanitary sewer and prevent raw sewage from spilling into our rivers and streams.

Dye tests have revealed that rainwater from about 5,000 properties in the city empty into the sanitary sewer.

In order to sell their houses, the property owners must tie their downspouts into the storm sewer instead. It's a job Mazzella told KDKA will cost her between $30,000 and $40,000 when the house is only worth $55,000.

Mazzella: "I either can leave it vacant, let the city take it for back taxes or tear it down. Those are my options."

KDKA's Andy Sheehan: "No good options."

Mazzella: "None of them."

But there may be another option.

"Today, I want to congratulate the PSWA for taking the first step in helping those homeowners with financial support," said Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross.

A bill supporting the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and a $200,000 plan to give those who have failed the dye test the means to pass it with grants and loans. Whether that means tying into the storm sewer or green solutions such rain and rain gardens to trap the storm water.

"We believe this program will go a long way to helping homeowners, who through no fault of their own, are stuck having to make these repairs," said James Good, of the PWSA.

It's welcome news on Wenzell Place in Beechview, where most people have failed their dye test.

"It would be beautiful," said Richard Snyder, a neighbor. "I don't have $12,000 or $15,000 to pay for a big plumbing project."

If this program works it will be blessed relief to homeowners who have failed this dye test and now will be free to do with they want with their property.

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