Sewage Sludge Waste Platform

C-SYSTEMS

SEWAGE SLUDGE WASTE PLATFORM

The problem is not being addressed today – a troubling and destructive issue. The local municipalities and federal governments are now discovering the collateral damages with current and past disposal methods. The solutions are all based on temporary measures to hide the core capturing a higher percentage of pollutes. This does not even begin to take into consideration the landfills that reached capacity. Are we going to continue on the destructive path of wasting valuable real estate in exchange for increasing the square footage of landfills in this country? Then we better increase our EPA and DOH field offices to cope with the volume of associated problems; not to mention begin looking at water table contamination. The farms in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina where sewage sludge has been dumped for years are now contaminated for a number of decades.

Overwhelming Problem in Pittsburgh:

In Pittsburgh’s early history, the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers were used as both drinking water sources and as sewers. While the rich often drank bottled water, the poor used primarily unfiltered river water. Pittsburgh at one time had the highest rate of typhoid in the country; in the late 19th century, about half of all foreign-born men became sick with typhoid within two years of arriving in the city. Typhoid death rates dropped from about 130 per 100,000 population to about 30 per 100,000 after filtration of the water supply began in 1907.

As the city’s population grew, its early haphazard collection of cesspools and privy vaults (outhouses) was replaced with a municipal combined sewer system that routed sewage into the area’s tributaries and rivers, starting around 1880. This improved many neighborhoods, but it deflected the problem into the rivers. Although the Pennsylvania Pure Waters Act of 1905 banned the discharge of untreated sewage by any new municipal system, that practice continued in Pittsburgh. Public health experts advocated for sewage treatment in the early 20th century, but this was regarded as an unaffordable luxury by most. Disease rates had dropped in the meantime, typhoid deaths being reduced to under 1 case per 100,000 by the 1930s. The prevailing attitude was that rivers were created in order to carry waste to the sea, and that rather than require Pittsburgh to treat its wastewater, communities downriver should treat their water supplies. Buoyed by rising sanitation standards and a push to clean up Pittsburgh after World War 2, the Pennsylvania Sanitary Water Board ordered Pittsburgh and surrounding communities to end these practices. So Allegheny County founded the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, or Alcosan, in the 1940s. Financing the system was a major hurdle involving squabbles between Pittsburgh and surrounding communities. This hurdle was cleared when Alcosan secured a four-year loan of $100 million, the largest for sewage treatment in American history, in 1955.

The routine dumping of raw sewage into area rivers ceased in 1959, when Alcosan began operations. Pittsburgh’s sewer overflow problem. Like those in many old cities, Pittsburgh’s sewer and storm water pipes are antiquated. Some lines are 50 to 100 years old and made of brick. And the sewer and storm drain systems grew in a haphazard fashion during Pittsburgh’s rapid population growth around the year 1900.

That has led to pollution problems. Portions of Alcosan’s service area use segregated sewer and storm runoff plumbing systems, where the sewage is piped to Alcosan’s sewage treatment plant, while the storm water flows directly into area tributaries. Other portions of the area use more primitive combined sewers, where sewage and storm water are mixed and flow through the same pipe to Alcosan’s plant. After heavy rainfall, however, combined sewers commonly dump untreated sewage into area rivers and tributaries without treatment, in an event called a combined sewer overflow. Because of misconnections and leaks in the plumbing system, even supposedly segregated systems will sometimes overflow during storms, releasing additional untreated sewage into the rivers. Such an event is called a sanitary sewer overflow. In 2004, the EPA estimated that 16 billion US gallons (61,000,000 m3) of raw sewage were discharged annually from outfalls into Pittsburgh area waterways. As of 2009, there are about 70 days a year when contact with river water in the Pittsburgh area is not recommended due to combined or sanitary sewer overflows.

Some of the smaller tributaries are even more polluted than the large rivers. In a 2005 study, a Carnegie Mellon University project tested water quality and found that only 32 percent of Allegheny County’s streams meet Pennsylvania’s safety standard for fecal coliform bacteria. Crooked Run in North Versailles, for example, contained 2,000 times the standard. The study was the first large scale measurement of water quality in area tributaries in years. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection no longer takes measurements like these because, spokesperson Betsy Mallison says, “we already know there’s sewage there, and we’re dealing with it.” After decades of such pollution in violation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act, in 2007 Alcosan signed a consent decree with the EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to develop a plan to greatly reduce its sewage overflows. Alcosan must assemble the plan by 2012 and implement it by 2026.