PWSA’s Community Lead Response Wraps up a Successful 2019

Mora McLaughlinMedia Release, News

Thousands of lead lines replaced and an improved anti-corrosion treatment method have improved water quality.

Pittsburgh, PA – The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is pleased to announce continued success with the Community Lead Response by again surpassing the number of lead line replacements required by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In 2019, the program replaced a total of 3,202 public lead service lines, which far exceeded the DEP requirement to replace 855 lead lines between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. More than 2,054 lead water service lines were replaced in 2018.

The 2019 Lead Service Line Replacement Program kicked off in spring of 2019, funded by a $49 million low-interest loan and grant from The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). This program replaces public lead service lines as well as private lead lines when they are found connected to a public lead line. These replacements, as well as plumbing upgrades that are required as a result of the work, come at no cost to the customer. Since PWSA’s lead line replacement program first began in 2016, over 6,000 public lead service lines have been removed from the water system.

Other noteworthy components of PWSA’s 2019 Lead Service Line Replacement Program included:

  • Removing over an estimated 20.4 miles of lead water lines.
  • Utilizing trenchless replacement technique at over 98% of private side replacement sites, avoiding disruption to private property.
  • Expanding the program to nine additional neighborhoods, adding over 3,000 more locations than originally planned with the $49 million budget.
  • Securing agreements from over 6,400 property owners to replace their private lead lines.
  • Inspecting the interior of more than 17,000 homes to locate private lead service line materials.
  • Holding over 6,040 in person pre-construction meetings with homeowners
  • Distributing over 9,500 free lead water test kits.
  • Providing more than 5,000 certified lead water filters and pitchers.
  • Responding to over 7,800 emails directed to LeadHelp@pgh2o.com.
  • Attending 39 community meetings to share information about the replacement program.

“Thanks to our dedicated staff and generous funding from PennVEST, we are on pace to achieve our goal to replace all lead service lines in Pittsburgh’s water system as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” said PWSA Executive Director Robert A. Weimar. “The addition of orthophosphate this past spring will assist with these efforts by reducing corrosion within any remaining lead service lines until we complete our mission.”

PWSA Board of Directors Chairman Paul Leger said, “We look forward to continued success with our replacement program and the continued success of the orthophosphate water treatment upgrades that will reduce corrosion within any remaining lead service lines. The Board of Directors is committed to providing the oversight and the resources to ensure PWSA is doing everything possible to reduce the risk of lead in our water.”

PWSA recommends several steps anybody can take to reduce the risk of lead in tap water:

  • Test your tap water for free. Kits can be requested at pgh2o.com/leadform or by calling our Lead Help Desk at 412.255.8987.
  • Search the records we have for residential properties at lead.pgh2o.com. Some of the records are from the time of original construction and may be out-of-date, but it’s useful to see if you may have a lead service line. A licensed plumber can also inspect the private line entering your home.
  • If you think you have a lead service line, run your cold tap for at least one minute before using water for cooking or drinking. You can also use water filters certified to remove lead. Coupons for filters can be found here: http://lead.pgh2o.com/resources/lead-filters-and-other-products/

PWSA also offers free private side lead line replacements for homeowners or tenants who are at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level. The program’s funding is expected to replace hundreds of privately-owned lead lines through our drinking water service territory. If there is also a publicly-owned lead line serving the property, we will replace it a no additional cost. Customers verified as meeting the income requirements can have their lead line replaced in a matter of one or two months.

To learn more about PWSA’s Community Lead Response programs visit lead.pgh2o.com, email LeadHelp@pgh2o.com or call our Lead Help Desk at 412.255.8987.

PWSA also urges you to take advantage of the Allegheny County Health Department’s programs to reduce lead exposure from sources other than water at achd.net/lead.