Speak Lab is part of the CMU School of Design senior experience. Speak Lab is focused on the using design as a tool to approach wicked problems. The topic I was giving is Rivers of Sewage, addressing the issue of wastewater management in the Pittsburgh and surrounding region of 82 communities.
The initial research shows that the problem originates from Pittsburgh's use of CSO (combined sewage outflow) that results in sewage being dumped into the rivers during heavy rainfall. The issue was brought to attention when the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) sued ALCOSAN (Allegheny County Sanitation Authority) over the use of CSO that have been contaminating the water supply as it violates the Clean Water Act. Now ALCOSANS needs to bring the Pittsburgh region's sewage system into compliance to insure that local communities and communities downstream have a clean water supply.
Many organizations and community members are trying to figure out what is the most cost effective solution to the problem so sewage bills do not become unaffordable for community members. Various green and gray infrastructure solutions have been proposed but it is uncertain which ones are the most effective delaying the finalizing of the Wet Weather Plan that needs to be approved by the EPA and resolve all sewage problems in the region for today and long term future.