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Green Infrastructure An Alternative Solution To Help Fix Sewage Problems

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Every time it rains heavily, raw sewage flows into our rivers and streams.

Alcosan and 83 local sewage authorities are under federal orders to fix the problem.

That means raising water and sewer rates for billions of dollars in new pipe and treatment facilities, but there are also green solutions to the problem.

On rainy days, Schenley Park becomes a beautiful watershed of falls and streams, making it a true urban wonder.

The downside is all of that water needs somewhere to go, and eventually flows into Panther Hollow Lake and into an antiquated sewage system, which when overburdened dumps raw sewage into our rivers and streams.

That's why for the past several weeks, backhoes and earth movers have been busy.

The Pittsburgh Park's Conservancy and its partners are spending $2 million on so-called "green infrastructure" to trap rainwater before it makes its way into the sewer system.

Atop a meadow, workers are digging out catch basins and have constructed a trench with an elongated French drain to filter the water into the ground before it flows downhill.

They'll also be planting the meadow with switch grass to absorb the water.

"All of that will take the water off of the street and soaks it into the ground, so when it gets to the two streams in the park, it will be clean and get to the stream more slowly," said Erin Copeland, of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

Over the next decade, Alcosan and local sewage authorities will spend between $2 and $3 billion to fix the sewage systems. That means adding more capacity - more pipes, more treatment facilities.

But it will also involve keeping storm water out of the system in the first place with green, or natural, projects like the one designed to trap 800,000 gallons of water a year.

"Provide our citizens with something that's beautified and has lasting value that they can see," said James Good, of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

The 800,000 gallons of rainwater is not a drop in the bucket, and while it will not solve the region's massive sewage problems, projects like this one will definitely be part of the solution.

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