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Homeowners Found Polluting Could Have To Shell Out Thousands

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It's a test you might not even know you've failed.

Letters are going to be going out soon to local homeowners saying they're polluting local water.

It's part of an effort to keep the rivers clean.

The test is simple, but if you fail, it'll cost you as much as $10,000 -- potentially bankrupting many.

"I don't see how people are going to get through this," one homeowner said.

Still, the state and federal governments say it's time to pay up.

"We cannot put this off," John Poister with the Pennsylvania DEP said. "We cannot kick this can down the road. It has to get done."

The problem is the region's antiquated sewers – when it rains heavily -- they get overloaded and raw sewage spills into our rivers and streams.

As part of this $5 billion consent decree, these dye tests determine if your house is adding to the problem.

If the green dye reveals that the runoff from your leaders and gutters drains into the sanitary sewer -- instead of the storm sewer -- you have to fix it.

Most people are probably looking at $5,000 to $10,000 to get it out of the sanitary and to where it has to go.

In order to sell a house in Carrick, the elderly sisters who lived there had to shell out $9,200 to direct the water into the storm sewer -- about 20 percent of the sale price of $50,000.

"It's a lot of money that was taken out of these ladies hands," the homeowner said. "They really needed it."

But now state and federal environmental officials say that every house must be fixed.

A map shows that 5,000 properties in the city of Pittsburgh -- many of which are in working class South Hills neighborhoods like Carrick, but they're not alone -- municipalities like Homestead, Etna, Braddock, Aspinwall and Crafton -- just to name a few are, in major violation.

"This is going to be a very difficult mountain to climb for many communities," Poister said.

The state Department of Environmental Protection says it's willing to work with those towns but has no funds to offset the cost. It's a huge hit, but with no help coming from the state or federal government there's no money to pay for it. The only likely target is your wallet.

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