Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA), under its compliance with federal Safe Drinking Water Act requirements, has implemented a lead service line replacement program. To comply, PWSA is mandated to replace 7 percent of the total lead service lines in its water system per year. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) requires that public lines be replaced, but these provisions do not apply to privately owned lines. In accordance with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) requirements, PWSA has established 45-day notices to occupants of homes known to have lead lines, and has notified homeowners that they can access a Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) loan program to pay for their own private service line replacements. To date, no lead line replacement loans have been requested by PWSA customers. More than 20,000 filters have been distributed to Pittsburgh homeowners. As part of this program, the City of Pittsburgh has also supplied drinking water filters (with cartridges to treat water for six months) for each partial lead service line replaced, to provide additional assurance that each home’s drinking water is safe.
PWSA’s formal lead service line replacement program began May 3, 2017. The program was established with requirements for post service line replacement water sampling for lead. Samples are to be taken 72 hours from the time of the partial line replacement. The samples determine the effectiveness of partial lead line replacements to mitigate lead content in the customers’ water. Additional monitoring over time is recommended to confirm that the lead concentrations in water recede to acceptable levels.
To date, the PWSA has replaced public lead service lines at 81 locations under the formal lead service line replacement program. Thirty-two of these lead line replacements reconnected to non-lead private services which established an effective full non-lead service line. Forty-nine locations resulted in a partial lead line replacement. Of the 49 partial lead line locations, only eight water quality samples have been submitted by the homeowner. Of these eight, four samples exceed the allowable lead action limit.
These water quality results—and the limited number of returned samples—suggest that modifications to our program are needed to provide the greatest assurance of public health. To that end, PWSA has been negotiating with PADEP staff over the past several weeks toward a definitive Consent Order and Agreement (COA) which is expected to define how PWSA will proceed with eliminating lead from the PWSA water distribution system.
Therefore, with an abundance of caution, and pending the outcome of the COA negotiations, PWSA has ceased any further partial lead line replacements until our procedures can effectively be verified, validated and modified to mitigate any possible public health risk. To ensure continued compliance with USEPA regulations, PWSA will continue removing public lead service lines which establish an effective full non-lead service line, but has ceased partial lead line replacements.
Mayor Peduto applauded today’s action by PWSA.
“The PWSA has followed requirements to replace lead lines, but the matter is threatening to become dangerous to our residents. We need to halt this replacement program until we have an understanding with the PADEP on how to properly and safety address this problem,” Mayor Peduto said.
“We know what the problems are, and we are looking to work with every partner to fix them. We have to solve them safely, however,” he continued.
PWSA and the City of Pittsburgh will continue to address the lead content in our drinking working closely with the Allegheny County Health Department, PADEP and USEPA to provide the greatest assurance that public health and safety are our top priority.