Water Quality & Rivers

ACTION: Call for a “Green Solution” to ALCOSAN’s Wet Weather Sewage Overflow Problem

ALCOSAN’s solution to the problem of sewage overflowing into our rivers during a storm was to build a huge multi-billion dollar storage chamber with large concrete tunnels beneath the rivers. Regardless of the carbon foot-print of such a venture, the cost of this project for ALCOSAN’s customers would be exorbitant.

The Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, and the Clean Rivers Campaign are urging their members to contact John Weinstein, Chair of the ALCOSAN Board, and demand that ALCOSAN adopt a ‘green solution’ to this fouling of our rivers.

SEND A LETTER to Chairman Weinstein by clicking HERE.

All the letters will be delivered in person to the ALCOSAN Board.

Formore information contact Tom Hoffman at tom.hoffman@sierraclub.org.

Statement of Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Protectors

On Thursday, September 15th Allegheny Group of the Sierra Club members joined over 150 Pittsburghers downtown outside of the Federal Building in support of the Standing Rock Sioux who are protecting their water, land, and sacred sites from being destroyed by the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

During the demonstration demonstrators blocked traffic with a 75’ long mock pipeline, signs, and their bodies, blocking traffic on Liberty Ave. during rush hour. At the demonstration participants heard from allies from all backgrounds, including a member of Save Our Salem, a local group in Salem Township fighting the destructive impacts in their community after the disastrous impacts from the April 29th, 2016 pipeline explosion and the Mariner East II pipeline project. In addition native voices from the Dakota Nation were heard from as well.

The Allegheny Group of the Sierra Club stands in solidarity with indigenous communities fighting for their rights for sovereignty, dignity, and the protection of their water, air, land, and cultural spaces. We encourage our members to educate themselves and continue to get involved and support this important pipeline battle, not just for the environment, but for native sovereignty. 14292402_1032206146901047_2499831580862029476_n

Since April, 2016 the Standing Rock Sioux have had several encampments protecting the land and water from the DAPL. The pipeline would carry 470,000 barrels of crude a day to Pakota, Illinois where it will link with other pipelines and be carried to refineries around the country. If built, the pipeline will be a cultural and environmental threat to the Standing Rock Sioux. The pipeline crosses the Nation’s traditional hunting, fishing and burial territory as well as directly crossing under the Missouri River, the Sioux’s main source of water.

The Water Protectors have been met with violent responses from police, private security firms and North Dakota politicians who declared a State of Emergency to discredit the encampments.

On Friday, September 9, the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Justice and Department of the Interior jointly announced they would temporarily stop construction under a lake that serves as a critical source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and asked the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, to voluntarily halt construction within 20-miles of the lake. However, construction continues in other sections of the project. During Thursday’s demonstration, supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux called on the Army Corps of Engineers to permanently halt construction of the pipeline.

To learn more check out the resources below:

Indigenous Environmental Network: http://www.ienearth.org/stand-with-standing-rock-no-dapl/

No DAPL Solidarity: https://nodaplsolidarity.org/


Solution to ALCOSAN’s Wet Weather Sewage Overflow Problem Takes a ‘Greener’ Twist

ALCOSAN’s solution to the problem of sewage overflowing into our rivers during a storm was to build a huge multi-billion dollar storage chamber with large concrete tunnels beneath the rivers. Regardless of the carbon foot-print of such a venture, the cost of this project for ALCOSAN’s customers would be exorbitant. The community-based Clean Rivers Campaign was therefore delighted when on February 18 Mayor Bill Peduto and County Executive Rich FitzGerald urged the EPA to allow time to study the option of replacing the ‘gray’ solution with a ‘green’ solution, and to expand the capacity of ALCOSAN’S water treatment plant.

Excerpt: Mayor Peduto and County Executive Fitzgerald call for time to consider ‘green’ solution instead of a ‘gray’ one.

The Clean Rivers Campaign – Sewers, Dollars, and Community Co-operation for ‘Green First’

The following is based mainly on an article by Tom Hoffman that appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania newsletter ‘The Sylvanian’.

For four years a coalition of faith, low income, minority, labor and environmental organizations have been waging a campaign over how a portion of Southwestern Pennsylvania will spend $3 billion of residents’ money to end the practice of dumping 9 billion gallons a year of raw sewage into the three rivers.

On one side of this battle is the coalition, known as the Clean Rivers Campaign (CRC) that has fought for solving this problem with a ‘green first’ approach. This means we would invest those $3 billion in green infrastructure in a smart scientific way to keep as much storm- water as possible out of our sewers. Regions that have taken this approach have found that these investments bring many benefits back to
their neighborhoods such as local jobs, revitalized business districts, less flooding and a cleaner and healthier environment. Once we have done the maximum amount of green we would then figure out what other kinds of gray infrastructure we would need to finish the job of cleaning our rivers.

On the other side of the fight is the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority or ALCOSAN. They have been advocating for years that we need to build 14+ miles of tunnels under our rivers to catch all the storm water and sewage and hold it until the rain stops and then pump it out and treat it. This approach is outdated and does not bring back the multiple community benefits that a ‘green first’ approach has shown it can do in cities like Washington DC, Kansas City, New York and Seattle. As Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto likes to put it, “We need to invest in a sponge, not a funnel.”

The CRC coalition partners are Action United, Clean Water Action, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, Pennsylvania Interfaith
Impact Network, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, and the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club has been in the campaign since day one and has played a leadership role particularly in working with the eighty-three municipalities that are part of the ALCOSAN service area.

Here are some of the reasons why the Sierra Club supports the campaign:

  • It is a model for how environmental campaigns should be organized.
  • It has built strong relationships between environmental groups and members of organizations that represent faith, labor, and low income and minority residents of this region.
  • It has helped bring new activated Sierra Club members into the campaign.

As Naomi Klein described in her book ‘This Changes Everything’, the fight for climate justice can be the issue that brings progressive movements together and the CRC is an example of how that can work.

We are talking REAL money here. There are about 200 cities across the country facing the same choice about how we solve. At an average of $3 billion per city that is HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS that will be spent fixing our country’s sewage in the rivers problem. Winning a sustainable way to spend that money is a fight we need to win.

A green approach is a climate strategy. Investing in green infrastructure is a way to build resilient communities that can withstand the effects of climate change at the same time it helps soak up carbon dioxide. Many of the communities that could receive these investments have traditionally been left behind because they are low income and or minority communities. These investments can redress that wrong. Building tunnels uses huge amounts of concrete which pumps carbon into the atmosphere. In the world after the Paris climate conference, nobody should be spending a half a trillion dollars on anything that doesn’t help the climate situation.

To learn more about the Clean Rivers Campaign, contact Tom Hoffman at tomhoffman@sierraclub.org.

Flint Water Crisis Represents Societal Indifference to Poor Communities

Here in Pittsburgh citizens know that their right to clean air is not met everywhere, all the time, but it is reasonable for all citizens to expect clean, drinkable water. That has not been the case in the shale fields of Western Pennsylvania where fracking is the culprit. Where the responsibility lies in the Flint drinking water crisis is more widespread – failure to maintain basic infrastructure, lack of consideration of possible environmental impact, subsequent denial by officials,  and indifference to communities like Flint with a high poverty rate and large portion of minorities. (more…)

Read the Spring 2018 Sierran


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