Neighbors in the Upper Hill upset by constant stream of sludgy runoff

PITTSBURGH — Residents living in the Upper Hill are fed up with a constant stream of sludgy runoff, sending leaves and mud all across their roadways.

“It’s a mess,” Joann Kielar said. “Water is flowing down the street and there are leaves accumulating, so we have a sludge that’s already slippery, and any time the temperature dips below freezing, we begin to worry that the whole street will freeze.”

The source of the runoff appears to be coming from a hillside between Webster Avenue and Lisbon Street, sending the sludge down Lisbon, onto Balboa, and then below to Ridgway Street.

Kielar decided to contact Channel 11 after calls to the city, the PWSA and the Public Utility Commission didn’t result in action.

“This is driving all of us a little over the edge,” Kielar said. “We’re not all young and we cannot go out there in icy conditions and winter is coming, and we’re dealing with an ugly sludge... street cleaners have not moved the leaves.”

Rick Hvizdak said that he first noticed the issue about four months ago, and recently the stream “keeps getting wider, almost as if the runoff is becoming more intense.”

He’s phoned the city twice.

“They said they were aware of several complaints at that point but were unable to identify where the runoff was coming from,” Hvizdak said.

Kielar told Channel 11 that she suspected the runoff could be linked to a fire hydrant on Webster Avenue, which is currently blocked by cones and caution tape.

Channel 11 contacted the PWSA and later saw crews on scene inspecting the situation. A spokesperson told us on Tuesday that hydrants in the area were found to be “in working order.” The spokesperson added, “we are sending a leak detection crew to the area for further inspection.”

The following morning, PWSA updated Channel 11, stating “Our crews completed leak detection and they did find a leak on a hydrant at Webster and Finland. They are working on getting it shut to make repairs.”

Messages to the Mayor Ed Gainey’s Office were not returned at the time this article was published.

Hvizdak said that the situation is impacting the quality of life for residents.

“We have a river running down our street, we’re getting freezing temperatures now and it’s a liability and a risk issue for a lot of people. It’s also just a filthy mess on the street, it looks really bad,” he said. “Why they’re not making this a priority, I don’t know.”

Both residents told Channel 11 that they believe their neighborhood is neglected by the city.

“I used to live in another neighborhood,” Kielar said. “This wouldn’t be happening there.”

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