Highland Park Microfiltration Plant to Reopen This Week, Providing Further Safe Drinking Water to the City

PITTSBURGH, PA (July 20, 2020) After three years of work and more than $14 million in investment, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority will bring the Microfiltration Plant in Highland Park back into service this week. The work preserves water safety for some 250,000 customers, with a permitted capacity to treat up to 20.8 million gallons of drinking water per day. 

The plant treats water from the Highland I Reservoir, which provides drinking water to customers living in Pittsburgh’s eastern neighborhoods, the Hill District, and parts of Oakland. This major investment, which was long a priority of Mayor William Peduto and PWSA leadership, will impact more than half of the authority’s drinking water customers. 

The MFP was taken out of service in 2017 to meet stricter state water quality standards. Over the past three years, PWSA has made the needed changes to improve treatment methods, rehabilitate the microfiltration system, and provide greater security around the Highland I Reservoir. 

“The work PWSA has done the past few years to ensure clean and safe drinking water for Pittsburgh residents is nothing short of extraordinary. I commend the authority’s leadership for this work, which is going on while it is also replacing thousands of lead service lines around the city, and thank residents for their patience during all these years,” Mayor Peduto said. 

“Completing the improvements at the MFP will ensure high quality drinking water that meets or surpasses all drinking water standards for over 250,000 residents,” stated Will Pickering, Executive Director of PWSA. “Reopening this unique and state of the art treatment plant allows us to focus on other previously-deferred critical projects. We appreciate our customers’ patience as our team of engineering, construction and operations experts continues to aggressively modernize our water system.”  

The Microfiltration Plant provides the necessary retreatment of water leaving the uncovered Highland I Reservoir before it is distributed to homes. Because the water goes to an open reservoir, it is no longer considered potable water and must be treated again before reentering distribution. 

This project included adding ultraviolet (UV) disinfection technology to the treatment process. UV disinfection is one of the most effective ways to treat water – when exposed to these powerful light-rays, it rapidly and effectively inactivates micro-organisms such as bacteria, pathogens, and protozoa that may have come in contact with the water. This second layer of treatment, in addition to membrane filtration, ensures the safety, quality, and reliability of our water after it leaves the open Highland I Reservoir. 

By restoring the MFP, PWSA can better distribute water to its entire service area. With the MFP back in service, PWSA has a redundant water system and can spread the demand for water across the entire water distribution network. This enhances PWSA’s ability to reliably provide water to customers.   

The Highland I Reservoir provides potable water to PWSA customers in eleven city neighborhoods and supplies water to secondary storage facilities including the Garfield Tank, Herron Hill Tank and Reservoir, Bedford Tanks, and Lincoln Tank. 

PWSA is doing the necessary testing and operational preparation to bring the MFP back into service this week. Customers should not notice any changes to service once the MFP is operational. 

Restoring service to the MFP and the Highland I Reservoir strengthens PWSA’s entire water distribution system. With this redundancy in place, it can turn to other critical water infrastructure projects. 

The total capital cost of all the direct and indirect improvements to support the restoration of the MFP Facility is approximately $14,500,000.00. Over the next several years, PWSA will invest approximately $312 million for other large system improvements. These “once in a generation” projects will modernize our water distribution system and provide customers with more secure and reliable water services. 

Photos: PWSA



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Timothy McNulty
Communications Director
Mayor's Office