PITTSBURGH, PA (October 17, 2018) The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is receiving more than $49 million in loans and grants to significantly boost efforts to protect the city’s drinking water, Governor Tom Wolf announced today.
The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) approved the funding this morning as part of $93 million in investments in water projects statewide. PWSA received a $35,441,231 loan and a $13,687,173 grant to replace 2,800 residential public lead connections, including 2,400 private lead service lines.
“I’m proud to support such an important infrastructure project for Pittsburgh,” said Governor Wolf. “Investing our resources to replace lead lines will benefit public health, the environment, and support a sustainable Pittsburgh for residents to enjoy.”
Securing state funding for lead line replacements has been a top priority for Mayor William Peduto and members of his senior staff, and follows numerous meetings between officials from the City and the Governor’s Office.
“Pittsburgh has been making great strides to protect its drinking water and this announcement from Governor Wolf gives that work a tremendous lift,” Mayor William Peduto said. “On behalf of Pittsburgh’s residents I want to thank all our partners – including the Governor, the Department of Environmental Protection, PENNVEST and PWSA – for making an investment that will have positive impacts for decades to come.”
PWSA launched a $44 million ratepayer-funded lead line replacement program in March of this year, so the state’s $49 million investment will more than double the funding for the citywide work. The $35 million loan is extremely low interest, at a rate of 1 percent with repayment over 30 years.
Under DEP requirements, PWSA replaced more than 1,300 lead service lines in the first six months of this year and is on track to replace hundreds more by the end of 2018.
The Peduto administration and PWSA – in consultation with DEP and a Blue Ribbon Panel named by Mayor Peduto in early 2017 – have been addressing concerns about unsafe levels of lead in Pittsburgh’s drinking water for more than two years.
Under state and federal regulations water providers such as PWSA must perform semiannual lead compliance testing, and testing results from June 2016 showed 22 parts per billion (ppb) of lead, which exceeded the acceptable level of 15 ppb or below. Working diligently to address the issue the Peduto administration and PWSA were able to report at the most recent testing period ending in June 2018 that the lead level was down to 10 ppb.
Until a state law change in November 2017 municipal water authorities were barred from replacing privately-owned lead lines, forcing PWSA to perform only partial lead line replacements. In June 2017 the authority, in consultation with the Peduto administration and the Allegheny County Health Department, halted that practice due to concerns that the partial replacements could increase drinking water lead levels. The state law change championed by Sen. Wayne Fontana finally allowed PWSA to start performing full lead line replacements this year.
Other efforts are underway to address lead in the city’s water system. With DEP approval PWSA is in the process of adding orthophosphates – an additive demonstrated to be highly effective at reducing corrosion from lead pipes – to the system. Last month the authority began flushing water out of the system to prepare for orthophosphate, and is installing new equipment to administer its addition.
More information on the PWSA Community Lead Response program is available here.