Pine Creek Watershed

Etna Borough is the geographically bottommost community in the Pine Creek Watershed, a 67 square mile watershed, with Etna only being .8 a square mile in totality with .6 of our community in the watershed. Pine Creek ends in Etna Borough where it enters the Allegheny River. Etna has concentrated their focus in all aspects of economic development through the lens of storm water. This is evidenced by our Comprehensive Plan, River Bend, the Borough’s Green Master Plan and in our Climate Action Plan. Etna is a founding member of the North Hills Council of Governments Storm Water Management Committee and led the recent update to the Pine Creek Watershed Implementation Plan. This plan was originally developed after the devastating flood of September 2004 in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan. This plan identifies projects within the Watershed that address both water quality and quantity in Pine Creek. Etna along with the other fourteen upstream communities in the Watershed has specific projects listed in the plan to assist with both water quality improvements and water quantity. We are so grateful our upstream neighbors are also very active in this work.

Stormwater Management Ordinance

Please see the Borough Stormwater Management Ordinance – No 1378.  This ordinance is applicable during any new construction and/or new development project, within the Borough of Etna.  There are also guidelines dealing with redevelopment, grading and other aspects of development that can affect storm water in our community.   It also limits were new development can happen within our community.  This ordinance provides for a fifty foot buffer along any watercourse that is within our Community or surrounds our community.  It is important in Etna Borough that we pay close attention to storm water management.  Being the community at the bottom of the Pine Creek Watershed and Sewershed,  we have many issues with storm water problems.  Sewer capacity within the combined sewer system can be exceeded during heavy rain events, causing overflows to our streams is one of those issues.  Localized flooding is another issue we face.  Proper stormwater management regulations can help address these issues.  As can a more proactive approach to storm water source control, which the Borough is actively pursuing where appropriate.

Wet Weather Public Outreach Campaign Ads

In an effort to help Southwestern Pennsylvania communities educate their taxpayers about stormwater and sewage overflows during wet weather, 3 Rivers Wet Weather has launched a broad public outreach campaign, which includes a series of educational ads. The ads below were published in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and many local community newspapers in Spring and early Summer 2006. The goal of the ads is to help increase awareness about the problem and give residents practical ways that they can help to protect our watershed. Click on the links below to download a copy af the ads. Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view the ads.

Additional Water Quality Efforts to Improve Pine Creek & Allegheny River

Etna Borough is a COMBINED SEWER COMMUNITY (CSO), which means our stormwater is mixed with our sanitary sewage in our sewer piping system.  During rain events, this can cause a surcharging of our sewer system which in turn can activate PERMITTED overflows into our creek and river.  During these rain events, our catch basins can be inundated with debris, including cigarette butts, trash, oil and other debris which take up capacity in the system resulting in overflow to our streams, affecting the water quality.  In order to keep our combined system clean, Etna annually hires a contractor to flush out the lines of this debris.  This is a costly expense, but once debris is in the sewer system it is difficult to remove without the aid of a sewer vactor truck. 

Since 2014, the Borough has been installing “filter basins” at high flow areas in our community.  These filter basins are designed to capture and retain storm water pollutants including: sediment, trash, vegetation, nutrients, coliform bacteria, oil/grease and dissolved materials.  The filters basins have cartridges within them that capture these materials.  Our Public Works Department is then able to remove the cartridges and the debris materials which have been trapped, preventing from entering the system and overflowing into our streams.  These have been installed at 18 locations so far, with several more coming this year.  After removing the debris, our Public Works Department weighs the materials so that we can track what we are removing from the system and from overflows.  In one six month period, fifteen of these basins had a total weight of 1,374 pounds of sediment removal.  While the cost of a cartridge is roughly $100.00, the cost of hiring an outside vendor far exceeds that cost, and that work happens after large rain events.  These filter basins aid in easing the impact that large rain events have on sewer system capacity as well as reduce sediment overflow into our precious stream and river. 


A simple enough question – but if you are like most of us – you stay home and “get things done around the house”. Makes sense, doesn’t it? As we have been sharing with you, Etna is a combined sewer commu-nity – meaning our storm water and waste water goes into the same pipe. As I am sure, you have been reading about the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, (ALCOSAN), which is under a federal consent or-der to reduce sewage overflows to our rivers and streams during rain events. As an ALCOSAN customer, Etna contributes to these overflows – and owns 8 more overflows into Pine Creek. We are permitted to carry storm water and waste water in the same piping system, but are now also required to reduce our overflows under a federal consent order. This year, the ALCOSAN rate was increased by 17% to help make these reductions. Etna increased their total rate by this amount to cover the 17% increase. It is predicted the rates will increase by an additional 11% a year for the next four years to help address these wet weather capacity problems in our sewer systems.

You can help with this reduction in a number of ways. Rain barrels and rain gardens are examples of good ways of how to keep the rain water out of our sewer system. Consider disconnecting your roof gutter and installing a rain barrel at your home to catch this rain water. The rain water can be reused to water your garden or plants in your home. Etna requires a permit for this installation – which is simple and easy to complete. It is important in our densely populated community to make sure we don’t direct the rain towards someone else’s property and cause foundation flooding to our neighbors. If you go through this program of permitting and properly installing the rain barrel you can receive a $5.00 credit on your bi-monthly sewer environmental surcharge for a three year period! That is $30.00 a year for three years! Call the Borough office for a packet explaining the process or go to the Storm Water Management Page of our website.

Now to our opening line…….…...WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN IT’S RAINING???

Some of the things that we all like to do when we are forced to stay indoors is laundering and dish washing. Makes perfect sense, or does it? If our sewers are overloaded during rain events, it is important that dur-ing that rain event, we don’t add additional unnecessary waste water to the system at that time. In other words, adding laundry and dish wash-ing water to the system during a rain event, only adds to our wet weather problem. So why not read a book, watch a movie or just kick back during those rain events and help reduce overloading of the sys-tem! Sounds simple but it is another way for you, the home owner, to help with the problem. These are huge issues with huge price tags that we are all facing in the ALCOSAN system, that will require massive construction projects going forward for years to come, but these simple ideas, if done in conjunction with those larger plans can help make a difference in the water quality in our streams and rivers, which are as-sets to all of us.

Residential Downspout Disconnect

In the Borough’s efforts to address combined sewer overflows and storm water run-off problems, the Borough adopted Ordinance No. 1341, the Residential Downspout Disconnect Ordinance. This ordinance encourages and requires a permit for downspout (roof drains/gutters) disconnection from the combined sanitary and storm water system in Etna. By removing roof drains where appropriate through approved methods you can help yourself, your neighbors and the environment. Etna is a permitted, combined sewer community which means the storm water and sanitary sewage are collected and carried in one system of piping. During heavy rain events, the capacity of the sewer system to carry away sewage can be exceeded. When that occurs, it is called surcharging and overflows occur into the creeks and streams. This same thing can occur in your basement when your roof runoff enters the same pipe that removes your sanitary sewage. During an intense rainfall, your connecting pipe can be overloaded, causing a backup into your basement through the floor drain. Removing the storm water connection to your service lateral can remedy basement flooding problems in many cases.

When storm water makes its way to the sewage treatment plant (Allegheny County Sanitary Authority ALCOSAN), it is treated like sewage, which increases the cost of sewage for all of us. Correctly removing roof drains from the sewer system by approved and permitted methods can potentially reduce the amount of rainwater that enters the sewer system.

437 Butler St., Pittsburgh, PA 15223   I      (412) 781-0569

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