Health Press Releases

Pittsburgh Makes Progress in Addressing Lead in Water

Image courtesy of Flick user Melissa Youngern.

Pittsburgh, PA (October 26, 2018) Mayor William Peduto joined state officials and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority  (PWSA) to recognize significant progress made toward replacing lead service lines and reducing the risk of corrosion from lead water service lines.

On October 17, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) announced that it will provide a $49 million investment for PWSA to continue to aggressively replace lead lines across PWSA’s service area. The award is made up of a $13.6 million grant and $35.4 million one percent interest loan. The state funding award, the largest ever granted to PWSA, is projected to fund the replacement of 2,800 public lead service lines and 2,400 associated private lead lines in 2019. Replacement locations will be focused in neighborhoods with a likelihood of at-risk populations, like pregnant mothers and young children.

The PENNVEST award will allow PWSA to build upon the success of the 2018 Community Lead Response Program, which fully funds private lead line replacements at properties where they are replacing a publicly-owned lead line. The comprehensive program removes the risk of old lead pipes, while also protecting customers from potential health risks caused by partial lead line replacements. Since July 2016, PWSA has replaced nearly 2,300 public lead service lines and over 1,000 private lines.

The group also acknowledged the recent approval by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for PWSA to construct facilities necessary to begin applying orthophosphate to treated drinking water. Orthophosphate is a food-grade additive that is used by water systems across the United States to reduce corrosion from lead pipes.

When water with orthophosphate runs through PWSA’s drinking water system, it will create a coating on the inside of lead pipes and plumbing, which will reduce the possibility for lead to enter tap water. PWSA conducted a sophisticated study that showed orthophosphate will be very effective at reducing lead levels in our water. Orthophosphate is recognized as an effective corrosion control treatment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. PWSA expects customers will begin to benefit from this treatment improvement in early 2019.

“The $49 million PENNVEST award coupled with DEP approval of orthophosphate demonstrates that PWSA is making real and sustained progress toward eliminating the risk of lead from old water service lines,” said Mayor William Peduto. The PENNVEST award means we can keep our foot on the gas pedal and continue to replace thousands of lead service lines per year,” he continued.

“This funding represents another step towards our overall goal of guaranteeing safe and reliable drinking water to the people of Pittsburgh and the rest of Pennsylvania,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We are happy to be able to continue working with PWSA and the Mayor’s office to protect drinking water for the people of Pittsburgh.”

PWSA Executive Director Robert A. Weimar said, “We’re extremely grateful to have the support of the PENNVEST Board, Governor Wolf, DEP and our local legislative delegation. The combination of grants and low-interest loans will reduce the burden placed on our ratepayers to fund these costly but essential infrastructure investments. Moreover, the addition of orthophosphate will protect public health for all of our customers while we replace every lead service line over the next seven years.”

For more information on PWSA’s Community Lead Response programs, visit www.pgh2o.com/lead-facts.

About PWSA: The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is the largest combined water and sewer authority in Pennsylvania, serving 300,000 consumers throughout the City of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. Our 250 employees are city residents and are committed to delivering high quality water.

Media Contact: Will Pickering | (412) 657-4031  | wpickering@pgh2o.com

Image courtesy of Flicker user Melissa Youngern.