By Jamie Wiggan
McKees Rocks council members have rejected an agreement with the county sanitary authority that would require the borough to lower untreated water flows into the local watershed.
The agreement was presented to McKees Rocks as part of a larger ALCOSAN initiative to reduce the untreated sewage that spills into rivers and streams following periods of heavy rain.
Council voted unanimously against the agreement March 8 despite cautionary words from their legal representation.
“I hate ALCOSAN,” said Councilman Nick Radoycis. “They lie to us and lie to us… If they want us to swallow our sewage then let them force us.”
Solicitor Megan Turnbull warned council before the vote it was not in a position to refuse the agreement because it fits into a consent decree enforced by federal courts.
“You don’t really have much choice,” Turnbull said. “Every municipality in Allegheny County has been presented with the same agreement.”
Turnbull said county and state agencies would probably have mechanisms to enforce the terms of the agreement if the borough was found in violation further down the road, which she said could include “fines and penalties.”
“We need to prepare for a nasty letter from the EPA,” Turnbull said.
Much of the sewage infrastructure throughout the county cannot effectively process sewage following high volumes of rain because it doesn’t have systems that separate out rainwater.
This long-standing issue landed ALCOSAN in federal court for federal environmental law violations in 2007, and the authority finally agreed to a court order in 2020.
Under the terms of the decree, the authority will partner with the communities it serves to reduce overflows, with some of the responsibility falling on municipalities.
Separately, the borough has taken ALCOSAN to court over plans to use a commercial lot in McKees Rocks as part of its wider infrastructure upgrades mandated by the decree. Borough officials announced the lawsuit last spring, claiming the plans – which could include sinking a former parking lot into a large pit – would harm the town economically and environmentally.
A judge has not yet ruled on the filing.