No water = No beer

The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette reports that the local water utility wants a court order removed that keeps it from turning off the water for Pittsburgh Brewing. Without water, the brewery will not be able to make beer.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has asked a judge to dissolve a court order preventing the agency from terminating service because of more than $3 million in unpaid bills. Pittsburgh Brewing obtained the injunction in December after receiving a termination notice. The parties agreed to negotiate a settlement after Pittsburgh Brewing promised to pay monthly water bills on time.

At the time, authority attorney Clifford Levine said, “We will not cut off water. It was not our intention for employees to lose jobs. We want to look for a meaningful resolution.” Althugh it has paid its water since December, the brewery has not paid ongoing sewage bills, and the PWSA is seeking more clout in ongoing negotiations.

The PWSA filed the motion to dissolve the injunction after the brewery failed to sign a draft settlement agreement sent to it in mid-May. Levine said the brewery’s response to the motion was to ask for more discussions. Levine said the brewery’s “strategy appears to be to stall and delay the inevitable.”

The brewery has conceded it owes $1.5 million in water bills, but is contesting the sewage charges. Those total between $1.8 million to $1.9 million, according to Levine. The dispute dates to 1996.

In an Oct. 31 letter, PWSA Executive Director Gregory Tutsock told the brewery it owed $3.7 million in water and sewage bills, excluding penalties and interest. The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority does not have the authority to shut off service to customers. When customers are 90 days delinquent, Alcosan gets reimbursed for those charges by PWSA, who then goes after the customer. Because the brewery hasn’t paid sewage charges since the injunction was issued, PWSA has been paying those bills.

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