PWSA Releases July 2018 Lead Compliance Test Results

Mora McLaughlinMedia Release

Pittsburgh, PA – The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) released the results from its most recent compliance testing for lead required by state and federal regulations today. One hundred six samples were collected from homes that were determined to have, or are expected to have, lead service lines or plumbing. The results are then calculated to determine whether 10 percent of the total samples exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb).


The 90th percentile results from the latest round of testing were 10 ppb, which is below the action level of 15 ppb. PWSA is required to perform this testing every six months until two consecutive rounds of testing produce results at or below the action level. Previous compliance testing results can be found below. According to EPA, there is no safe level of lead. Residents should continue to consider the recommendations provided by PWSA to reduce exposure to lead if they know or suspect they have lead service lines or plumbing. A frequently asked questions document on lead in water can be found at


In accordance to DEP and EPA guidelines, PWSA sent sample kits to 195 homes for testing. One hundred and six (106) residents returned their kits to PWSA’s third party laboratories for analysis. All samples were taken from homes that have, or are expected to have, lead service lines or plumbing. The results were reviewed and the 90th percentile level was calculated by DEP. Eighty nine percent of the samples collected were below 10 ppb. The details of the July 2018 compliance testing results, as well as a comparison of previous testing rounds, are as follows:


  • 72 have a lead concentration of less than 5.0 ppb (parts per billion)
  • 22 are between 5 and 9.9 ppb
  • 7 are between 10 and 14 ppb
  • 0 are between 15 and 19 ppb
  • 4 are between 20 and 49 ppb
  • 1 is higher than 50 ppb


June 2016
December 2016
June 2017
December 2017
June 2018
< 5.0 ppb
5.0 to 9.9 ppb
10 to 14.9 ppb
15.0 to 19.9 ppb
20 to 49.9 ppb
50 ppb and higher


90th percentile
22 ppb
18 ppb
15 ppb
21 ppb
10 ppb
Total samples taken


* Detected levels of lead have increased in PWSA’s service area since the early 2000s


The 90th percentile is not an average of the presence of lead across PWSA’s water system, but rather a calculation to determine if 10 percent of the worst-case scenario sites that were sampled exceeded the lead action level. PWSA must repeat compliance testing every six months until the 90th percentile level is 15 ppb or below for two consecutive rounds of testing.


PWSA’s Community Lead Response is focused on reducing lead exposure to all customers. As part of a consent order and agreement with DEP, PWSA has replaced over 1,390 lead service lines since July 2016. To reduce the health risks of partial lead line replacements, PWSA is offering no-cost private lead line replacements at homes identified under the $44 million program.


In addition to locating lead lines and replacing them as quickly as possible, PWSA will begin adding orthophosphate to the treated drinking water this fall to reduce corrosion from lead pipes. A rigorous year-long study demonstrated that orthophosphate can reduce lead levels in PWSA’s drinking water. It has also been used successfully by numerous major cities to reduce corrosion from old lead service lines.


“We’ve learned that the results of compliance testing are highly variable. While we’re pleased that the latest results are trending downward, PWSA will not rest until we improve our water treatment using orthophosphate and replace the lead lines in our system,” said PWSA Executive Director Robert Weimar. “We know what needs to be done, and we’re moving full speed ahead to deliver for our customers,” he continued.


As the Authority identifies the location of lead service lines, it is notifying residents directly and making the information available to the public on a searchable online map at In addition, PWSA continues to offer free lead test kits to its drinking water customers.


  • Lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Although most lead exposure occurs from ingesting lead paint, dust, or lead contaminated soil, EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent may come from drinking water. If residents know or suspect they have lead service lines or plumbing, they are encouraged to reduce exposure in drinking water by using the following recommendations:
  • Run your water to flush out lead. If you haven’t used your water for several hours, run your cold tap for at least one minute before using for cooking or drinking. Homes with longer lead water service lines may require flushing for a longer period of time.
  • Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Lead dissolves more easily in hot water. Do not drink, cook with, or make baby formula using hot water.
  • Do not boil water to remove lead.  Boiling water will not reduce lead.
  • Look for alternative sources or treatment of water. Purchase a water filter that is certified by NSF to remove lead. Coupons for NSF-certified filters can be found here.  Customers can also choose to drink bottled water.
  • Identify if your plumbing fixtures contain lead.  There are commercially-available lead check swabs that can detect lead on plumbing surfaces such as solder and pipes. Consider having lead-containing pipes and fixtures replaced.
  • Contact PWSA if you decide to replace your lead service line. PWSA will coordinate with residents to replace its portion of lead service line and funding for low-income households will be available. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is offering low-interest loans for eligible property owners who replace their private lead service lines. Call 412.255.6677 for more information. For more information on lead service line replacement, contact the PWSA Help Desk at 412-255-8987 or via email at
  • Test your water for lead. Go to or call us at 412.255.2423 to request a free lead test kit.
  • Get your child’s blood tested. If you think your child may have been exposed to lead, talk to you doctor about testing your child. Allegheny County requires all children to be tested for lead exposure at approximately 9-12 months, and again at 24 months.


Many American cities face similar challenges posed by old lead infrastructure. PWSA is committed to working with our community to identify solutions to reduce the risk of lead exposure. The Authority encourages customers to learn more about lead in water at Additional information on lead in water, including health risks and protective measures, is available at: