Tube City Almanac

January 28, 2008

It Flows Downstream

Category: Good Government On The March, Cartoons || By

cartoon (c) 2008 Jason Togyer/Tube City Almanac

Years ago, the Youghiogheny River used to be navigable at least as far as Boston, thanks to a series of locks and dams. You can still see the footings in the summertime, when the water levels get low.

Maybe McKeesport and Versailles should rebuild the dam under the Boston Bridge and keep Elizabeth Township's sewage where it belongs.

. . .

As you know by now, the township has been dumping millions of gallons of raw, untreated sewage into the Yough (pronounced "Yuck") since last year --- 6.3 million gallons on Dec. 16 alone, according to the Post-Gazette.

It's hard to imagine 6.3 million gallons of sewage, so visualize this: Experts say that if you took 6.3 million gallon milk jugs, filled them with sewage, and stacked them on the field at Warrior Stadium, the smell would be appalling.

"We don't understand how someone would not know there is a problem," a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection told the newspaper.

. . .

I'm with her: This isn't accidental, and it isn't an isolated problem. According to the Valley Independent, the DEP and Allegheny County Health Department say that discharges of untreated sewage by Elizabeth Township into the Yough have been happening for more than a year. They've documented 73 separate incidents.

There have been no public health problems reported (yet), and the city's water treatment plant (which draws drinking water from the Yough) has not reported any problems.

But imagine how many people who swim or boat in the Yough during the summer have been drinking that sewage? Maybe you or your family.

This represents gross (and I do mean "gross") negligence by Elizabeth Township's "sanitary" authority, for which people should be fired, en masse, immediately.

Treatment plant supervisor John Pecora and chairman Robert Similo "could not be reached" for comment by the Post-Gazette. Maybe they were busy updating their resumes.

. . .

It's not just happening on wet, rainy days, either, when storm water gets into the sanitary lines and causes them to overflow. It's happening on dry days, which tells even an ignorant layman (like myself) that something is drastically wrong.

Elizabeth Township contracts operation of the plant out to the world's largest operator of municipal water treatment plants, Veolia Water, a French-owned conglomerate. Its parent company reported 10 billion Euros (about $14.8 billion) in revenue in 2006 and earnings of 2.13 Euros per share (about $3.15) in its most recent financial statement.

Apparently, the money they save is returned to investors ... and they pass the urine and feces onto you!

Veolia's website boasts about the benefits of privatizing municipal facilities, including "clean, quality water and improved customer service ... tremendous costs savings and rate stability ... (and) environmental compliance."

This particular case is not a good example of privatization in action. (Or should that be "inaction"?)

. . .

Unfortunately, the people who are going to wind up paying for this are --- quite literally --- homeowners in Elizabeth Township and businesses connected to the sewerage system. The township sanitary authority is going to be liable for thousands --- probably hundreds of thousands --- of dollars in fines.

I expect the authority will wind up suing Veolia. But in the meantime, any legal costs and expenses will be eaten by ratepayers of the Elizabeth Township Sanitary Authority. Get ready to dig deep, folks.

. . .

If I lived in the township, I'd sure say that something stinks. But the smell is coming from the municipal building, not the river.

Shame on the sanitary authority's board members for ignoring this problem --- and shame on the township's elected commissioners for not conducting better oversight.

The Elizabeth Township Sanitary Authority next meets at 7 p.m. Feb. 5. That's next Tuesday. The commissioners meet the day before, at 7 p.m. Both meetings are at the municipal building on Rock Run Road. Residents and taxpayers should be there to ask hard questions and demand hard answers.

There is no excuse for this. None. Period.

Your Comments are Welcome!

“If I lived in the township, I’d sure say that something stinks. But the smell is coming from the municipal building, not the river.”

It’s the Chiefs, not the Injuns !
tutti - January 29, 2008

What is the purpose in fining the township? It doesn’t really solve anything. It does not make the problem go away any faster. If taxes need to be increased to fix the problem, so be it. It’s not the residents fault that their government is lousy. Well, maybe it is…like you said recently, we have become passive sheep. But who honestly thinks to ask, “Hey…I wonder how the sewage system is running lately?”
The Dude from West Mifflin - January 29, 2008


This can only be classified as gross negligence. Malfeasance.

Heads should roll.

It will be interesting to see if these politically connected people responsible will ever pay for their misdeeds.

We finally have gamefish friendly rivers in the valley and stuff like this happens. Somebody was not paying attention.

This is why we need to eliminate nepotism and cronyism in authority hiring, Valley wide!

Paul Shelly (URL) - January 29, 2008

Apparently the township would rather build a community recreation complex than have clean water…
The Dude from West Mifflin - January 30, 2008

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