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Learn about The Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, including Environmental Compliance, Featured News, Key Projects, The Team, and Performance Metrics.
Please see the below information regarding Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority's environmental compliance.View Program Details
Recent testing finds that the city’s drinking water lead levels have improved by 11 percent since the last regulatory testing period, thanks in part to the use of orthophosphate.
The most recent round of testing completed by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) finds the city’s drinking water lead levels below the state and federal action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb).
PWSA says that the results indicate the continued effectiveness of adding orthophosphate to its water treatment process. This is PWSA’s fourth consecutive round of testing in which lead levels are in compliance. All water samples were taken at homes with a known lead service line or a historical record of a lead line.
The 90th percentile result of 4.42 ppb is below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) lead action level of 15 ppb. Samples were taken at 117 residential locations between January and June of 2022. To date, this is the lowest round of samples in over 20 years.
These results come weeks after an official visit from Vice President Kamala Harris, EPA Secretary Michael S. Regan, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge that highlighted the importance of lead remediation and PWSA’s efforts to tackle lead-in-water issues in Pittsburgh.
“This latest round of testing undoubtedly reflects the commitment from our diverse team of employees, contractors, consultants and Community Lead Response Advisory Committee to ensure we’re continuing to protect our customers from exposure to lead in water,” said PWSA CEO Will Pickering. “We remain focused on protecting public health, and our work to replace the remaining lead lines is not over,” he continued.
PWSA’s water came back into compliance in summer of 2020 and lead levels have remained well below the EPA action level of 15 ppb. Since the Community Lead Response’s inception in 2016, PWSA has replaced over 9,200 public lead service lines and over 6,100 private lead service lines at no direct cost to customers.
“The City of Pittsburgh is extremely proud of the progress PWSA has made to reduce lead levels and supports their commitment to remove all lead service lines from their drinking water system,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey. “Funding from the American Rescue Plan Act ensures this vital work will continue to revitalize homes and neighborhoods – ensuring Pittsburgh residents have access to safe, clean drinking water.”
The most recent testing shows that 93 percent of water samples taken show lead levels 5 ppb or lower. This is an 11 percent improvement from last regulatory testing period.
In April 2019, PWSA began adding orthophosphate to reduce lead levels in drinking water while continuing to replace thousands of lead service lines. Orthophosphate is a food-grade additive that forms a protective layer inside of lead service lines, creating an anti-corrosive barrier between the lead pipes and the water flowing through them. It is approved by the EPA and successfully used in water systems across the world. Orthophosphate was selected by PWSA and approved by DEP after an extensive, year-long study of treatment alternatives.
Since PWSA came back into full compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule in July of 2020, it has been working closely with national water quality experts to further optimize the water treatment process to maintain low lead levels. Over 60 samples are taken from around the system every week, including lead monitoring stations, hydrants, and controlled testing points. Analysts look at lead levels, as well as orthophosphate and pH levels and other markers that influence overall water quality.
PWSA plant and field operators, water quality experts, engineers, and data managers also constantly review information collected in the field to ensure that PWSA’s drinking water meets all state and federal regulations.
PWSA is pursuing several targeted programs in 2022. All planned water main and service line replacement work for the year is being financed with assistance from state and federal programs, like the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) and the 2021 American Rescue Plan. PWSA says that these programs will save its ratepayers an estimated $77 million in 2022. The following programs kicked off this calendar year:
The City of Pittsburgh approved and provided $17 million to PWSA from the American Rescue Plan to target lead service line replacement. Construction crews will move through neighborhoods quickly and efficiently, replacing any lead service lines they discover. Funding is anticipated to replace approximately 725 lead service lines. Work began in spring of this year.
Water main replacements continue throughout PWSA’s service area, replacing aging infrastructure and lead lines. This project will improve water reliability and safety by replacing approximately eight miles of new water main and 900 service lines. Additional water main replacement will be announced later in summer 2022.
PWSA 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 income and determine the level of reimbursement provided to customers.
Pittsburgh, PA – Today, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) was awarded $209 million in low-interest loan funds from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) for the construction of projects within our Water Reliability Plan. The 30-year loan award will save ratepayers approximately $156 million compared to traditional municipal bond financing.
“We would like to thank the PENNVEST Board, Governor Wolf, state legislative leaders, and the City of Pittsburgh for continuing to support PWSA’s essential projects,” said PWSA Chief Executive Officer, Will Pickering. “Once complete, our ambitious Water Reliability Plan will safeguard quality water service for our customers for the next one hundred years.”
PWSA’s Water Reliability Plan involves the rehabilitation or replacement of critical components of our water pumping and distribution system. These components include large diameter transmission pipes, reservoirs, pump stations, and electrical stations that help to deliver water. PWSA will also replace the Clearwell - a large, century-old storage facility used to disinfect and kill any harmful bacteria or pathogens in the water. When built, these assets will be the resilient backbone of the water system and allow us to provide continuous service to all customers, even in the event of power outages, weather events, or other unforeseen issues that can impact service.
Over the next five years, we will invest nearly $470 million into these once-in-a-generation projects. To cover the bulk of the remaining costs after the PENNVEST award, we have applied to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program and expect to be notified of this award in late 2022 or in early 2023.
The Water Reliability Plan will create numerous contracting opportunities for engineering and construction firms, construction management companies, and other suppliers locally in Pittsburgh and across the country. The use of PENNVEST funding requires a robust and thorough Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) solicitation process.
Outreach to vendors through the Pennsylvania Unified Certification Program database ensures DBE firms are aware of opportunities and the ability to compete for work funded by EPA financial assistance dollars. PWSA’s Supplier Diversity Policy, which states a goal of 10-25% of all contracts are to be awarded to DBE firms, will direct $20-50 million of this funding for DBE firms. To learn of these upcoming PWSA opportunities, DBE firms are encouraged to register with our procurement portal.
PWSA is proud to be the recipient of this generous PENNVEST funding package. It is the largest amount provided by PENNVEST in their history. The second largest award of $65 million was also issued to PWSA in January 2020 for the replacement of water service lines. Since 2018, PWSA has received from PENNVEST a combination of low interest loans and grants totaling $210 million primarily for the replacement of lead service lines.
“Our partnership with PENNVEST and EPA is producing meaningful savings to our customers. Over time, these low-interest loans reduce the need for rate increases during an unprecedented level of investment in our essential water systems,” said PWSA Finance Director Ed Barca.
To learn more about our Water Reliability Plan, please visit pgh2o.com/your-water/water-reliability-plan
PWSA’s Supplier Diversity Program ensures that minority, women, veteran, and service-disabled veteran owned businesses have the opportunity to participate in our contracting opportunities.
Supplier diversity is a topic of critical importance for our organization, and something we prioritize every time we engage with third parties to work with PWSA.
I’m pleased to announce that PWSA has published its inaugural Supplier Diversity Annual Report. This two-page report highlights our direct capital spending on Minority, Women, Disadvantaged, and Veteran Business Enterprises (MWDVBE) vendors and contractors throughout 2021. This past year, PWSA spent $31,294,999 on contracts with 76 MWDVBE businesses, totaling 18% of capital expenditures. The types of contracts include annual maintenance, such as sewer reconstruction and surface restoration, water treatment chemicals, debris removal, landscaping, plumbing, and electrical work.
The report also highlights our local and regional impact. Our contracts resulted in $53,821,031 in direct, indirect, and induced economic outcomes for the surrounding communities and region.
I’m confident that providing contracting opportunities for a diversity of businesses, contractors, and sub-contractors will only help to bolster the economic vitality of our local business community and the Pittsburgh region. As we’re investing more dollars into our infrastructure, we must also be deliberate about integrating equity and inclusion into how we do business so that everyone benefits.
At the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, our goal is to provide our customers with safe, reliable water services. Headwaters, our new organizational performance improvement dashboard, provides a snapshot of our progress. It tracks several metrics that we are measuring across the organization. Take a look to see how we're doing at headwaters.pgh2o.com.