Statement Of James Roddey
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
April 23, 2003
Allegheny County Executive
Good afternoon. I will try to be brief. I would like to commend the EPA and the Department on Aging and Dean Goldstein for putting this listening session together. It's a little unusual to see issues about seniors combined with the environment, and I commend you on that.
Let me say that we are an aging population. We are 2nd oldest, and we hear that ad nauseam. I think that every time we say that we should be celebrating. We ought to change our attitude. We are blessed to be the 2nd oldest - this is a great place to grow old and our seniors are valued, and we ought to find ways to take advantage of this blessing and not be always worried about what we have to do for them. They have done things for us for a very long time, and we ought to do things for them without lamenting that.
I would just like to comment on an important issue we have in Allegheny County, and that is the overflow of our sewers. Its well known that every time it rains - they call it a weather event - it is well known that most of the sewage goes directly into our rivers. Despite the fact that we've improved the water problems, this is still a problem and this is one of the worst areas in the U.S. It is estimated that just in the Alcosan (Allegheny County Sanitary Authority) area, we'd have to spend about $3 billion to correct the problem. But correcting the problem does not solve the problem because you need to correct it in a watershed. In the entire watershed of western Pennsylvania that is estimated to be a $10 billion problem.
We certainly recognize the environmental impact that this has on our seniors when we have these wet weather events and we have the overflow. We are a senior population in Allegheny County. Most of the seniors here lived on fixed incomes and many on low incomes. They have worked all their lives to do two things. One, pay off their homes and two, educate their children. They are still paying school taxes through property taxes and now they are faced with having to pay a portion of this $10 billion to correct this problem. If there is anything the government can do, it is to help the region try to find a way to mitigate the cost to seniors of trying to repair this sewer system. Right now there are no identifiable funds to correct this problem, and we will have to triple our sewer rates to solve this problem. That's unacceptable for any age population. In Pennsylvania, we have a uniform taxing law. I don't know if we can simply say that our seniors or people over a certain age did not have to pay an increased fee. We might have to introduce legislation to do that.
Thank you for inviting me to be here today, and I look forward to hearing what you all have to say.