Thousands more lines replaced and lead levels at a 20-year low
Pittsburgh, PA – The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is pleased to announce the continued success for the Community Lead Response, our dedicated program for lead line replacement, corrosion control optimization, and public education around lead in drinking water. In 2020, the program replaced a total of 2,216 public lead service lines and 1,572 private lead service lines, exceeding state requirements in efforts to replace all lead service lines by 2026. Even with shut-downs in the first half of 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, PWSA project managers, Lead Help Desk Staff, and construction crews worked diligently to resume work and meet our goals.
Some of the Community Lead Response accomplishments include:
- Replaced 2,216 public lead lines, or about 19.9 miles of lead pipe. That’s about three times the length of the Great Race!
- Secured 3,700 agreements from property owners to complete private lead service line replacements.
- Held over 3,750 pre-construction meetings with homeowners before lead line replacement using COVID safety protocols.
- Distributed over 3,365 free lead water test kits.
- Provided more than 3,200 lead water pitchers and filters to customers.
- Inspected 16,317 homes for lead service lines.
- Fielded 7,490 emails and 20,300 phones calls to our Lead Help Desk.
- Hosted or attended 25 community meetings on lead, most of which were virtual due to COVID-19.
PWSA completed lead service line replacements through two methods in 2020 – neighborhood-based lead line replacements and water main replacement projects throughout our service area. In the first half of 2020, PWSA was wrapping up its neighborhood-based program, which used historical service line data, demographic information, and blood-lead levels from the Allegheny County Health Department to target sections of neighborhoods that indicated high concentrations of lead. When this project was complete, PWSA adjusted its strategy to a more wholistic approach. Through water main replacements, we can replace lead service lines as well as the aging water mains that serve them. In June of 2020, PWSA began a PENNVEST-funded, $65 million water main replacement program.
In addition to its construction and water quality efforts, PWSA unveiled a new lead line assistance program in November of 2020. The Lead Line Reimbursement Program will assist customers with the cost of private lead service line replacement if customers choose to proactively hire a plumber and complete the work. In partnership with Dollar Energy Fund, PWSA will verify your income and determine the level of reimbursement you qualify for. This program is available to anyone who has replaced their private lead service line since January 2019.
For more information on this program, visit www.lead.pgh2o.com/leadreimbursement/.
Lead Levels Lowest in 20 Years
In July of 2020, PWSA met one of its most impactful milestones of the Community Lead Response. After years of planning, testing, and implementation of an improved corrosion control treatment called orthophosphate, PWSA’s lead testing levels were at a 20-year low, bringing the water system back into state regulatory compliance. PWSA will continue to replace lead lines throughout the water system, but this will take time. Implementing an effective corrosion control reduces lead levels for all customers while this important work can be completed.
To read more about orthophosphate, visit www.lead.pgh2o.com/understanding-lead-and-water/orthophosphate/.
Water Main Replacement Program
In June of 2020, PWSA set out to replace 14 miles of aging water mains and hundreds of lead service lines through its Small Diameter Water Main Replacement Program. These water mains were selected using the same historical, demographic, and health data used in previous projects. Taking place over 10 neighborhoods, crews replace water mains and work with any property owners where lead service lines are found to replace them at no cost. This method meets our goals to replace lead service lines for our customers while also giving attention to aging water infrastructure in the street. The project is still ongoing, with approximately 75% of new water main installed.
The Small Diameter Water Main Replacement Program will be a yearly effort by PWSA, with new locations for 2021 to be announced this spring. For more information on ongoing work, visit www.pgh2o.com/2020-water-main-replacement-project.
PWSA will continue to replace lead lines throughout the water service area via the water main replacement program and will continue to provide free water testing, pitchers and filters at homes with elevated lead, reimbursement for private lead line replacement, and a dedicated Lead Help Desk staff to answer questions and concerns. As changes to federal lead regulations are developed, PWSA is confident that the Community Lead Response meets or exceeds many new regulatory standards being discussed.
To request a free lead test kit, check for lead at your property on our Lead Map, or read past press releases on the Community Lead Response, visit www.lead.pgh2o.com.