Nov 25, 2020

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority Violates Clean Water Act

PWSA pleads guilty to violating Clean Water Act and pumping sludge into Allegheny River

clean water act

Employees and supervisors at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority dumped sludge into the Allegheny River from the Aspinwall treatment facility for 7 years, violating the Clean Water Act. 

This sent plumes of rust-colored chemicals into the river, reported the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The authority pleaded guilty to eight federal charges, including seven counts of lying on written reports to the EPA. The pollution and false reports occurred between 2010 and 2017.

In a statement, PWSA said the authority has “fully cooperated” with the Department of Justice and the EPA and the actions that spurred the criminal charges did not jeopardize the safety of the water, reported the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“Both compliance issues raised in the investigation have been rectified and had no impact on the quality or safety of the drinking water,” said the statement. “The authority has altered the treatment plant to make these discharges to the river physically impossible.”

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In a plea agreement, PWSA agreed to pay $500,000 into a self-funded compliance program. This program will be monitored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the authority will spend three years on probation. During this time, annual reports and audits must be submitted to the Department of Justice and the EPA.

Important to note is that the plea agreement bars PWSA from raising rates to pay for the fine.

The sludge was supposed to be pumped to the ALCOSAN waste treatment facility but instead, employees and supervisors at the Aspinwall plant would pump that sludge directly into the river, sometimes by physically turning a valve to release the sludge, according to the court documents.

The equipment used to measure the amount of sludge generated daily were broken for years, reported the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Lijewski, the former supervisor, was directly involved in dumping the sludge into the river and directed other employees to do the same.

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