Top court won't hear appeal over Girty's Run

 

By Brian C. Rittmeyer

TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Thursday, November 16, 2006

 

West View residents could be forced to pay more for sewer service now that the borough has exhausted its court appeals over a $7.2 million debt to the Girty's Run Joint Sewer Authority.

 West View's legal avenues ran out after the state Supreme Court said it would not hear an appeal of a court decision finding the borough responsible for 25 percent of the construction cost for two holding tanks. The tanks are designed to prevent overloads on a 30-inch trunk line that carries sewage from West View and Girty's customers to Alcosan. Girty's Run serves Ross, Shaler, Millvale and Reserve.

 Commonwealth Court in February upheld an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court decision in Girty's Run favor in 2004.

 Lawrence Maiello, an attorney for Girty's Run, said the authority expects to receive full payment within 90 days.

West View Mayor J.R. Henry said the borough is auditing the payment request. He said the borough is investigating a 30-year bond issue that would be paid through an increase in user fees. How much fees would rise, and how much more individual residents could expect to pay, is not yet known.

 "We fought this very strenuously, and we still believe our position is correct," Henry said.

 Girty's Run argued that under a 1987 agreement, West View was responsible for a fourth of the construction costs of the tanks, which were built to comply with a 1984 state Department of Environmental Protection order to stop the overflow of untreated sewage. During wet weather, stormwater would overload the system, pushing raw sewage out manholes and into the Girty's Run stream and area basements.

 The trunk line was built under a 1932 agreement between West View, Millvale, Shaler and Ross. Overflows were first noticed in the late 1970s.

 The Girty's Run authority was formed in 1984 to address the DEP order. West View did not join the authority, and the 1987 agreement was drafted to address the trunk line, Maiello said.

 Henry said West View's position was that under the agreement it was responsible only for maintenance on the existing line, and not new construction.

 "There was no contemplation of the building of these two facilities," he said.

 A 5 million gallon tank in Ross and a 3 million tank in Shaler, first proposed in 1995, were finished in 2001.

 Maiello said the tanks, which hold sewage at times of high flow then release it when the high flow has passed, are working to reduce overflows.