The Sewer Rehab Project is anticipated to begin in May 2021.

By Briana Canady

Photo: A crew exposes a sewer manhole as part of a previous sewer rehabilitation project. Courtesy of PWSA

On Jan. 21, 2021, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) announced their acceptance of a $7.75 million loan from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). This financial assistance will help PWSA complete their Sewer Rehab Project, which is anticipated to begin in May 2021. The project aims to rehabilitate the aging sewers in Brighton Heights, South Side Slopes, and Hazelwood.

The majority of the loan will go toward identifying and addressing high-risk sewers in neighborhoods including Brighton Heights. Rebecca Zito, the senior manager of public affairs for PWSA, stated that this rehabilitation project is constructed in coordination with other small-diameter water main replacement projects that are taking place in these neighborhoods. 

“We are rehabilitating the pipes by installing a fully structural liner inside the pipe to significantly extend the usable life of the sewers,” Zito said. 

The existing sewer in the neighborhoods, which according to Zito were installed between 1894 and 1927, was constructed of vitrified clay pipe (VCP). VCP is a strong material that is resistant to corrosive components present in sewage. It was commonly used throughout Pittsburgh’s sewer system, but is more susceptible to root intrusions, which can lead to blockages or underground wastewater leaks. 

PWSA aims to address the risks they find before a possible sewer failure. 

In a statement by PWSA Chief Executive Officer Will Pickering, this low-interest loan will “help us reduce the risk of sewer backups and sinkholes by upgrading over seven miles of our aging sewers.”

A sewer liner is installed during a previous project. Photo: PWSA

PENNVEST is a financial institution that helps provide low-cost funding for sewer, stormwater, and drinking water projects throughout the state of Pennsylvania. The institution’s primary focus is on providing low-interest funds for projects that will help clean rivers and streams in Pennsylvanian communities for the citizens and the protection of natural resources.

The Sewer Rehab Project will take approximately 10 months to complete, and residents of the neighborhoods will be mostly impacted during the spring and early summer, when the project is scheduled to begin. 

“Early work includes excavation to raise buried manholes to street grade, install manholes at existing junctions, and fix severely deformed and fractured sewers prior to installing liners,” Zito said. 

As the rehabilitation of the sewers progresses, more focus will be on the installation of the sewer pipe lining.

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