Prove your humanity

by Oliver Morrison, PublicSource

This story comes from PublicSource, a nonprofit digital-first news organization that delivers public-service reporting and analysis in the Pittsburgh region.

At a press conference in September, Arletta Scott Williams, the executive director of the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, led the crowd in a chant.

“Say it with me: Green! green!” Then she asked the ALCOSAN staff, board members and media to join her. 

“I say, ‘Green,’ you say, ‘Green,” she repeated as a handful of voices echoed back. “Green! Green!” 

Williams was underlining ALCOSAN’s commitment to green infrastructure — a way of storing or transporting rainfall with landscaping and plants rather than pipes. 

LISTEN to Oliver Morrison talk about his story with The Allegheny Front’s Kara Holsopple

After years of pressure from advocates such as the Clean Rivers Campaign, this was a significant shift in rhetoric for ALCOSAN leadership. Williams admitted that she was late to embracing green solutions and did so largely because of public pressure. 

“Sometimes it is the public outcry that gets you there,” she said. “So be it. Whatever it takes.”

But it isn’t yet clear how fully ALCOSAN is able or willing to embrace its leader’s new rhetoric.

A consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] mandates ALCOSAN to complete $2 billion in upgrades to prevent sewage overflows from entering the rivers.