By Elizabeth Perry
Dave Serkoch has lived in the McKees Rocks Bottoms for 31 years and neighbors say he has the prettiest house in McKees Rocks.
The home boasts a pool, a wet-bar gazebo, a basketball court, oak flooring and a two-car garage with air conditioning and a bathroom because the contractor has been continually updating his home.
“It’s way, way, way overdone,” Serkoch said.
Unfortunately, it’s one of the houses slated to be torn down by eminent domain to accommodate the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority’s massive, court-mandated tunnel project.
Nine houses are being purchased by the water authority and an additional three will require easements, said Kimberly Kennedy, director of engineering and construction for ALCOSAN. The “Shingiss Connector Sewer” drop shaft would be going in at the corner of Ella and Shingiss streets and a new pump station will replace the existing one, built in 1943.
On May 2, Kennedy said ALCOSAN sent out letters to the impacted residents, and on May 11 they had a meeting at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church with the impacted nine homeowners, “one-on-one.” On May 24, ALCOSAN held another meeting for the public.
“This is meant for the neighborhood,” Kennedy said.
Serkoch has said ALCOSAN has promised to be fair in pricing, but he is apprehensive. He and his wife, who recently retired after working at Carnegie Mellon University for 45 years, had planned to spend their retirement in their home.
“It’s devastating. I have to find equal to what I have or similar,” Serkoch said.
On the one hand, the grandparents could downsize, and the area they’d made their home in has gone downhill, but Serkoch worries he won’t get back what he’s put in.
“For him to lose his house – it’s sad,” Council President Archie Brinza said.
Brinza has known Serkoch for decades and said the contractor had made an indelible impact on the area.
“He changed our community 30 years ago,” Brinza said. “McKees Rocks Bottoms wouldn’t be the Bottoms without him.”
Neighbor and family friend Sandy Wolf had hoped after she heard about Serkoch’s house that ALCOSAN would also want to buy her home. This isn’t the case.
“He wants to stay. I want to leave,” Wolf said.
Wolf is in her eighties and her home is too large for her now, but the inertia of living in a place for that long, with low expenses has kept her in the same spot.
Cheryl Roche lives a block away on Gardner Street. About two weeks ago, she got the notice in the mail that construction would be taking place in her neighborhood in 2025.
“We’ll wait and see what happens with our house,” Roche said.
She worries about what her life will be like when the company begins demolition and sandblasting.
Kennedy said measures were going to be taken to limit noise and pollution during construction, including fencing with fabric to mitigate some of the dust.
ALCOSAN is offering residents who are displaced and those immediately adjacent to the property who are caused “substantial economic injury because of the acquisition,” relocation assistance, according to a pamphlet provided by the sanitary authority. That assistance would include material help in finding a place and additional financial assistance.
In 2007, the EPA sued ALCOSAN for violating the Clean Water Act based on ALCOSAN allegedly discharging raw sewage into regulated waters. Currently, there are 9 billion gallons of raw sewage that pour into the region’s three rivers annually. The lawsuit resulted in ALCOSAN entering a consent decree with the EPA in 2008. The current plan to correct these issues was approved in 2020. To fix the sewage overflow problem, ALCOSAN is proposing a regional tunnel system which will be completed in three steps by 2036.
The regional tunnel system will have three major tunnel projects, the first beginning in McKees Rocks. The new tunnels will be called the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela river tunnels and are expected to remove seven billion gallons of waste from the rivers annually.