A recipient of multiple awards for her leadership, Arletta Scott Williams has led ALCOSAN in the role of Executive Director since 1998. Among her recognition, the American Society of Civil Engineers, Pittsburgh Section, honored her with the Service to People award in 2014, and in 2016 the Greater Pittsburgh YWCA presented her with a Racial Justice Award for business and professional services. ALCOSAN is a current Green Workplace Challenge participant and a Top Scorer in the GWC 2.0 competition.
– What is a macro trend driving ALCOSAN’s uptake of sustainability that all organizations should be watching for their own interests?
Using green infrastructure to divert rainwater from ALCOSAN’s collection system is one of the methods that is part of a long-term solution to the problem of overflows that send untreated wastewater into the region’s rivers and streams. That is why ALCOSAN’s Board of Directors made the decision to start a grant program called Green Revitalization of Our Waterways. Under GROW, municipalities and municipal authorities that are part of the ALCOSAN system may apply for funds to pay for green infrastructure and other types of flow reduction. In the inaugural funding cycle in January, ALCOSAN offered $9 million in grants for 32 projects, in 18 municipalities and 10 city neighborhoods. These projects will leverage $25 million in overall spending and remove 70 million gallons a year from the system. The second round of funding is now underway, with more to follow.
– Please share an example of how ALCOSAN has integrated sustainable practices in its operations that would be relevant to other organizations or businesses relative to resource conservation, employee care, or operational efficiencies and savings.
In 2016, ALCOSAN changed to a cleaner fuel to power its plant incinerator. In the case of most airborne releases, the decline was 7.6 percent, but carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions saw profound improvements. Carbon monoxide emissions fell by 73 percent, and nitrogen dioxide fell by 93 percent.
ALCOSAN was honored by the Pennsylvania Resources Council with a “Zero Waste” award for efforts to divert waste during the annual Open House. During the September 17, 2016, environmental festival, ALCOSAN diverted 98 percent of the waste generated, an impressive feat particularly because 2,328 people attended.
Construction is nearing completion on a new maintenance facility at ALCOSAN’s North Side plant, and a solar-panel roof was installed on the largest of the three structures. The roof will generate power for the facility, and it includes a meter where it will be possible to see how much electricity is being generated by the roof.
– What would leaders be surprised to know about ALCOSAN’s own sustainability challenges and opportunities?
Many of ALCOSAN’s customers do not realize that our primary mission is creating clean water. Our facility takes the wastewater sent from our customers’ homes, along with stormwater and groundwater, and treats it — up to 250 million gallons of wastewater each day — and returns it to the Ohio River, in a condition that is cleaner than the water already in the river.