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Grey And Green Combination Seen As Solution To Region's Water Woes

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- In the Banksville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, they have come to fear the rain, especially a heavy rain.

On Hayson Avenue, the combined storm and sanitary sewers get overloaded in heavy downpours, and several times a year, the rancid overflow floods people's homes.

"What happens is that I get sewage in my basement and my garage, and if there's a lot of back up, the houses beside me, it just follows up the line," says resident Sue Zippel.

For years now, Zippel and her neighbors have had to pump sewage laced water out of their basements every time the over-burdened sewers backed up.

Until now.

After three years of fighting, the neighbors have compelled the city and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to fix the problem. The solution is both grey and green.

It's grey in that it will use concrete and steel in fixing the underground infrastructure.

Under Hayson Avenue now will be an in-line network of culverts that will capture the rain and serve as a holding tank, slowly releasing it into the bigger storm water system, preventing backups.

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But the fix will also be green.

At the curbsides, the PWSA will lay in swales, rain gardens if you will, on top of porous stones that will serve as sponges for the storm water and prevent it from going in the sewers in the first place.

"The rain comes down, the flowers capture it. It infiltrates into the ground and keeps it out of the system," says Brendan Schubert, of PWSA.

This combined approach of green and grey infrastructure will be the template going forward; not just to prevent neighborhood flooding, but for the region to comply with a federal consent decree.

Heavy rains cause sewage overflows throughout Allegheny County and nine billion gallons of combined storm water and sewage pour into our rivers and streams every year, and we're under orders to stop it.

The Banksville project is just one small example of hundreds of projects which are excepted to cost billions of dollars over the next decade.

"It reduces combine sewer overflows, it stops basement backups and helps us achieve the water out of the system," says Schubert.

This seems to be the way going forward. A mixture of grey and green, some call it blue. It's the way to comply with the consent decree and clean up our rivers and streams.

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