The Allegheny County Health Department has taken down the orange combined sewer overflow (CSO) flags for the first time this year. The county issues the warnings anytime raw sewage is flowing into the three rivers in Allegheny thanks to recent rainfall.
ACHD spokesperson Guillermo Cole says the county issues the alerts from May 16th through September. The warning flags went up on the first day and are just now being taken down. The alerts do not mean the river is closed, it just means recreational users should limit their contact with the water, “especially those with weakened immune systems,” says Cole.
Last year the county issued 9 alerts averaging 5 days each. Cole says it is not unusual to see a 15-day alert. In 2004 the average alert lasted 21 days. In 1999 the average alert was just 3 days. “It has to do with the amount of rain and when it comes,” says Cole.
Recreational boaters can look for the orange flags at marinas or they can get the information directly from the health department through its web site. A call to 412-687-ACHD will also get the information.