News and Alerts

Cost Effective and Environmentally Conscious Organization

The McCandless Township Sanitary Authority is a Regional, Pennsylvania local municipal authority that provides the wastewater collection and wastewater treatment for a 44 square mile area in northern Allegheny County. The Authority serves all or parts of seven communities and has a customer base of nearly 52,000 residents. As part of the Authority’s mission statement the Authority has pledged to its customers that it will continue its efforts to control operating costs while up-grading facilities to meet local, state and federal environmental rules and regulations. The Authority has a five-member Board that has carried this commitment forward. The Board is comprised of members with varying engineering degrees, as well as knowledge of local government principals and general business practices. These Board members have brought this expertise to the Authority on a strictly volunteer basis and have proven to be a true asset to the Authority. The Board, along with the Executive Director and the MTSA staff have formed a bond to serve the Authority together in an effort to serve and protect the interests of the Authority.

            The Authority is a multifaceted organization with many inter-related functions going on at the same time. Wastewater Treatment and Wastewater Collection are only a broad base description of the activities of the Authority. In the Wastewater Treatment Division there are four wastewater treatment facilities each having its own plant operating staff, maintenance/mechanic staff, electrical technicians, laboratory technicians and plant laborer/technicians. There are complete operating budgets that forecast future needs for 5-year projections and 10 year long range forecasts. There are contracts and coordination with other utility providers and varying service contracts, as well as meeting the State and Federal rules, regulations, and mandates. The Authority has 21-Sewage Pumping stations scattered throughout the service area that have many of the same challenges as the treatment facilities. The other main division is the Wastewater Collection Division. In this division there are requirements for maintenance, operation, repair and replacement that is directed by the Authority’s, self-developed Operation and Maintenance Manual. This division follows the same budgeting practices with 5- and 10-year projections and forecasts. To accomplish all the aspects of the Authority a complete fleet of vehicles and equipment is required. The Authority has a state-of-the-art vehicle/equipment Maintenance Center where everything from oil changes to complete vehicle bodywork/painting is performed. Additionally, there is a fully functional machine shop and welding/ fabrication shop. All of this requires administrative oversite and the Authority’s Administrative Offices handle these functions as well as many other interactions with the communities served by the Authority. The Administrative Division handles billing, development, compliance issues and accounting/auditing requirements.

            As you can see from the somewhat brief description above, the McCandless Township Sanitary is a very complex organization that requires diligent oversite by not only the Authority staff, but by the MTSA Board of Directors as well. Everyone involved must be conscious of the Authority’s needs in a cost-effective nature while keeping a close watch on the environmental challenges faced by the Authority. With this in mind the Board of Directors have been in the forefront of developing cost-effective programs and have encouraged, and directed the MTSA staff to take on these challenges. The remainder of this report will be dedicated to listing and briefly describing some of measures taken at MTSA to operate a cost effective and environmentally conscious organization.

        I.            PA Federal Surplus Program: MTSA has participated in this State-run surplus program for over 20 years. The Authority has made acquisitions from this program worth well over $600,000.00 for roughly 10% of the original cost. This program had helped the Authority start its aggressive collection system maintenance program. By the Authority repurposing heavy equipment and vehicles to affordably undertake this program. Additionally, the Authority acquired several high-end


pieces of equipment for the Authority Machine Shop, helping the Authority be more self- sufficient by having the ability for MTSA employees to machine replacement and repair parts in house. The list of acquisitions over the years has been extensive, ranging from computers all the way up to a 5000- gallon tank truck.

       II.            Duquesne Light WATTS Choices Program: MTSA has participated in this program and has acquired reimbursements for the installation of numerous capacitor banks at many of its facilities. This in conjunction with the installation of variable frequency drives (VFDs) on many key high power demand motors has reduced power usage greatly and has helped keep the utility bills stable in an ever-rising market. Most recently, the Authority enrolled in a peak power demand reduction program. By operating facility emergency power generators during peak demand periods in the summer the Authority has been able to reduce the Kilowatt hourly demand by 50,000. This has equated to a $20,000.00 reduction in energy costs, while at the same time taken some of the strain off of the power grid system.

     III.            PA Dep – Alternate Fuels Incentive Grant Program (AFIG): With the emergence of the Marcellus Shale Industry the Authority saw an opportunity to reduce its operational costs for fuel by developing a propane bi-fuel conversion program. At the time gasoline prices were rising almost daily and there appeared to be no real relief in sight. Since the Authority’s initial kickoff of the program there has been variability in gasoline prices, but the cost of propane has tracked right along with gasoline and has been at least $1.00 per gallon equivalent cheaper than gasoline throughout the program. To date the Authority has applied for and received two State DEP grants to supplement the cost of this program. Through the PA Dep AFIG Program the Authority has received in excess of $40,000.00 in program reimbursements. The Authority chose a bi-fuel conversion program, which allows the use of propane or gasoline in the same vehicle. To date the Authority has converted 13 total vehicles and has seen a 3-year payback on its investment and a yearly cost saving on fuel of nearly $2500.00 per year. Not even to mention the environmental benefits of 20% less harmful emissions, lower carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide release and that propane is not a greenhouse gas.

    IV.            Longvue #1 Wastewater Treatment Facility Upgrade: In the late 1990’s the Authority undertook a voluntary Long Term Control Plan in its Longvue #1 Service Area. Through internal studies the Authority determined areas in the Collection System that need upgraded, replaced, or rehabilitated. This was a 5-year program that included nearly five miles of the collection system. At the completion of that phase of the work there were three sanitary sewer pump stations replaced with newer more efficient equipment to assist in controlling flows to the Treatment Facility. In 2007 the Authority then began a complete rehabilitation of the Wastewater Treatment Facility located on Hazlett Road. This facility was converted to a Sequential Batch Reactor treatment technology that can treat and handle a wide range of flow levels and adverse weather conditions. This project cost over $14,500,000.00 and through the MTSA Board of Director’s diligence the Authority received a Pennsylvania Pennvest low interest loan with interest rates under 2%. For the protection of the environment and the local neighbors near the treatment facility the Board approved and promoted the installation of an Ultra-Violet Disinfection system at this facility, eliminating the need for Chlorine which is a dangerous chemical. Since its completion in early 2009 this facility has performed exceptionally well and has helped transform this service area to a well-operated system.

      V.            A&B Service Area: The A&B Service Area is located in the general area between Duncan Manor Shopping Center and Wildwood Country Club. In this area the Authority has taken on several projects to improve the system and protect the environment. Of particular interest, is the multi-year Pipe Bursting Project. Pipe Bursting is a somewhat new trenchless technology that allows you to


install new, sometimes larger sewers in populated areas with minimal excavation. Authority personnel have internally, undertaken pipe bursting of over 11,000 lineal feet of sanitary sewer to avoid contractor costs. This technology uses hydraulic pressure to pull a new sewer pipe into the existing sewer while bursting the old pipe into small pieces to allow the new pipe to fill the void left behind. This work was performed in various neighborhoods where this technology fits best. The Authority spent approximately $350,000.00 on this work, but by performing the work with in-house personnel it has saved the rate payers an estimated $150,000.00 in contractor costs. The second noteworthy project in this service area is the Sample Valley Pump Station. This is a combined project where Authority personnel installed all the pipe work and a contractor installed the pumps, generator and building structures. By doing this project in this fashion the Authority saved approximately $100,000.00 on the estimated project cost of $800,000.00.

    VI.            First Energy’s PA Utilities Energy Efficiency Programs: In 2016 the Authority initiated a three-phase program to convert existing high pressure sodium lighting to more energy efficient LED lighting at the Arcadia Complex. Phase one was the conversion of the high bay lighting in the Maintenance Building. There were a total of 56 fixtures replaced for approximately $28,000.00. The Authority did apply for and receive a $2800.00 reimbursement under First Energy’s energy efficiency program. Phase two was the conversion of the parking lot lights to LED lighting from the existing lights which are high pressure sodium fixtures. The cost estimate for this phase was $22,000.00, with a reimbursement of approximately 10% of the cost. The projected payback period for this program is slightly over 7 years, with a power reduction of nearly 50%. Additionally, the light fixtures are projected to last 10 years each, which will be an additional savings of nearly $200.00 per fixture over the 10 year period.(56 X $200 = $11,200/10 years).

  VII.            Lowries Run Service Area – Line Replacement / Enhancement Program:  In 1999, well before the ALCOSAN Consent Orders and the big push for sewer repairs, the Authority undertook a long- range program to enhance and replace the sewers in the Lowries Run Sewer System that contribute flows to ALCOSAN’s treatment plant. This was a multi-year program that has resulted in over 11.6 miles of sewer line replacement and /or enhancements and the complete replacement of 96 manhole structures. This program has virtually eliminated all weather induced sewer overflows and basement backups in this Authority owned system. Additionally, this program has decreased the amount of inflow and infiltration going to the ALCOSAN treatment facility. One project alone has reduced the daily dry weather flow to ALCOSAN by over 140,000 gallons per day. This project was so valuable to ALCOSAN that they have awarded MTSA a GROW Green grant of $580,200.00, which reimbursed the Authority for 85% of the project cost.

 VIII.            Pine Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility –LTCP: The Authority’s Pine Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility is the Authority’s single largest asset. It has a treatment capacity of 6 million gallons per day and serves over 12,500 customers. This facility has proven to be not only an asset to McCandless but to the other six communities that it provides service to. This facility has allowed for continued development, both residential and commercial, for the Northern Allegheny County Region. As would be expected, this facility has the largest operating budget and requires continued maintenance and operation to ensure continued compliance to State and Federal regulations. In an effort to control costs the Authority is always researching and implementing measures to improve the overall operation of this facility. The following is listing of several of these projects that have been undertaken by the Authority:

  1.        Fine Bubble Diffusion System: When this facility was originally constructed the engineers specified a coarse bubble aeration system that utilized 40hp mixers to distribute air into the process tanks. The Authority researched, designed, and installed fine bubble diffusion systems in the 12 aeration basins of this facility. These new systems eliminated the need for the 40 horsepower mixers. Each aeration basin conversion cost was $16,000.00, with a payback period of 12 months each. After the payback period of one year, the Authority has realized an energy savings of over $100,000.00 per year at this facility.
  2.        Sewage Pumps – Variable Frequency Drives: Flow into to this facility is pumped by one of the three 100 horsepower centrifugal pumps. The Authority undertook an in-house project to replace outdated control equipment with more energy efficient VFD Controls. This project has helped to smooth out the power consumption of these pumps and lessen the power demand factor at the plant.
  3.        Centrifuge Project: In 2015 the Authority undertook another in-house project to replace a Belt Filter Press that was being used to dewater sludge prior to going to a permitted Landfill. Technology has improved since the Belt Press was initially installed in 1997 and Centrifuge equipment can now remove about 50% more free water from the sludge and reduce landfill and hauling costs significantly. The Centrifuge equipment cost over $500,000.00 and has a payback period of roughly 6.5 years. By having Authority personnel perform the installation the Authority saved nearly $170,000.00 in contractor costs. It is estimated that Landfill costs will be reduced by over $60,000.00 per year at the current landfill disposal rates.
  4.        Long Term Control Plan: In forecasting future needs at this facility and contemplating future regulatory requirements the Authority voluntarily initiated a Long-Term Control Plan in 2018. MTSA contracted with an engineering firm to perform a Basis of Design Report, followed by a detailed engineering design to develop the future needs and anticipated improvements to the system. The main objective of this LTCP is to meet continued regulatory compliance while providing an affordable and efficient service to its rate payers. In early 2022 the contract for performing the Facility upgrade was awarded and work is now underway. The design chosen will make it possible for the Authority to meet anticipated future regulatory requirements and will improve the current operational needs with the installation of computerized controls for process control and the wide use of VFD motors throughout the system. Along with the installation of an Ultraviolet Disinfection System that will help to improve the overall discharge to the Pine Creek stream.

    IX.            A&B Plant Conversion and Multi-Pump Station Upgrade:

  1.        The existing A&B Wastewater Treatment Facility was constructed and put into service in 1962. This Facility continues to be operational but has begun to deteriorate and has some wet-weather issues during extreme rain events. Like the Plant, the existing pumping station requires an upgrade to keep it in compliance with State and Local regulatory requirements.
  2.        The Peebles Pump Station is one of the older pumping stations in the Authority’s service area. It originally pumped flows to the A&B Treatment Facility, but in the mid-1970s the pump discharge was re-routed to take the flows to the Pine Creek Facility. It is also becoming in need of replacement and can experience wet-weather issues during extreme weather events.
  3.        Members of the MTSA staff began to do an in-house review of these facilities to determine the most effective method to make needed repairs and upgrades to these systems for the most cost effective and in an environmentally productive manner. With the MTSA Board approval it was decided to upgrade the A&B Pump Station so that it could transfer flows to the Peebles Pump Station Service area, thus making it possible to close the A&B


Treatment Facility and eliminate a wastewater treatment discharge to the receiving stream. To make this all work, the Peebles Pump Station required a complete system upgrade to handle these additional flows along with the existing flows from the Peebles Pump Station service area.

  1.        This project has required an extreme amount of coordination but is now close to completion in the beginning of 2023. With these upgrades the Authority will be able to remain in compliance with all regulatory requirements. With the consolidation of these Facilities and the transfer of flows to the Pine Creek Treatment Facility the Authority will realize cost savings associated with having a more regionalized system for these service areas.


      X.            Longvue #2 Service Area / cure-n-place lining: The Longvue #2 Service area is the smallest service area of the Authority and perhaps the oldest. This service area is nestled between Perrymont Road to the north and Three Degree Road to the south and takes in portions of McCandless and Ross Township.  It is one of the most densely populated areas with the sewers and all other utilities located in the street and sidewalks. This makes any repair or replacement costly. The Authority developed a plan to rehabilitate this entire service area with a newer state-of-the-art trenchless technology referred to as Cure-n-Place Lining. The last section of this project was completed in the spring of 2016. The typical cost for this lining process is $40.00/ft. as opposed to conventional open cut sewer replacement which is approximately $100.00/ft. for an area such as this. With approximately 15,000 feet of sanitary sewer in this area Cure-n-Place Lining produces a substantial savings, plus with the added incentive that most residents were not aware of the scope of the work and had very little disruption to their normal day activities during installation.

    XI.            Development and Administrative Initiatives: Through the wisdom of the MTSA Board and the actions of the Executive Director and the Administrative Staff several initiatives have been undertaken to control costs to our current ratepayer/customers and allow opportunities for growth within the system. The following is an abbreviated listing of policies currently in place:

  1.        Dye Test on Sale of Property: Insures that when a new customer purchases property, whether residential or commercial, the private sewer system is not allowing illegal water, non-sewage into the Authority’s system. This lessens the overall impact of compliance to the customers as a whole.
  2.        Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG): This is an ongoing inspection program that tests and inspects contributions from commercial establishments. Many times facilities such as restaurants, hospitals and educational facilities contribute high strength sewage to the Authority’s facilities. High strength sewage can contain; fats, oils and grease, and also can contain sewage with elevated organic bacteria and/or high total dissolved suspended solids. This program provides guidelines to surcharge these establishments for their contributions to the sewer system, thus lessening the direct costs to the residential customers.
  3.        Change of Use Policy: When a business changes hands there may be a drastic increase in the flow being contributed to the sewer system. An example would be a Law Office that is converted to a Beauty Salon. This policy allows for monitoring of their flow to determine if the facility needs to purchase additional tap fees. This policy lessens the direct costs to the residential customers.
  4.        Offset Capacity Program: This program has been designed to enable developers to pay directly for system improvements that are required because of their projects. Many times, their projects may be impacting the overall sewer system at downstream locations and this policy requires that they pay for the improvements, so as not to burden residential customers with the costs for these system improvements.


At the outset of this report the Authority was described as being a “cost effective and environmentally conscious organization”. The hope is that by presenting this information the public will understand that the Authority is truly a steward of the environment and considers all aspects of the Authority Customers’ needs as it undertakes the operation of this Authority. It should be understood that the Leadership of MTSA Board and mutual cooperation of the Authority Staff and Employees makes the success of this organization possible. The Authority is and will continue to look forward to identifying cost-effective measures to serve the Authority and its ratepayers.

Dennis Blakley

Director of Operations