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News & Press Releases

July 22, 2020

Press Release
PWSA’s Lead Levels Lowest in Over 20 Years

Pittsburgh, PA – The most recent round of regulatory compliance testing completed by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) resulted in a 90th percentile lead level of 5.1 parts per billion (ppb). These samples collected from 158 homes with lead service lines or plumbing are the lowest levels in recent history, demonstrating the effectiveness of adding orthophosphate to PWSA’s water treatment process.  

The 90th percentile result of 5.1 ppb is approximately 10 ppb below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) lead action level of 15 ppb. This is PWSA’s lowest lead testing result in over 20 years and the second consecutive round of testing below the action level. The results indicate that we are effectively reducing lead levels across our water service area. DEP is expected to certify this round of testing results as early as this week.

Orthophosphate effectiveness improves over time

In April 2019, we 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 a 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.

To better understand and implement orthophosphate in the system, we assembled an experienced team of staff, as well as external water quality scientists and state and federal regulators. This group continues to monitor hundreds of additional samples in addition to the compliance testing announced today to ensure that orthophosphate remains effective.

"Water has long been Pittsburgh's most precious resource, and residents should be assured their drinking water is safe and will stay so for generations. It wasn't easy, but we faced this crisis down and will keep doing the work that is necessary to continually improve our water system," Mayor William Peduto said.

“This latest round of testing not only brings us back into compliance with state and federal regulations, but also closes an unfortunate chapter in PWSA’s history,” said PWSA Executive Director Will Pickering. “Ensuring the safety of your water is our number one priority, and we’re aiming to restore our customers’ trust by continuing to optimize water treatment and replacing the remaining lead pipes in our system.”

"Eliminating lead has been a priority for PWSA.  I'm amazed at how far we have moved to remove lead from our system,” stated Paul Leger, PWSA’s Board Chair.  “Thanks to the PWSA team who made this happen.  We have passed all hopes we had for lead reduction and we will continue that work until the lead threat is totally eliminated.”

What is the 90th Percentile?

The 90th percentile is not an average of the presence of lead across our water system, but rather a calculation to determine if 10 percent of homes with lead service lines or plumbing that were sampled exceeded the lead action level. Water utilities like PWSA that have exceeded the 15 ppb threshold, are required to complete two, six-month rounds of testing at or below the action level to bring its water distribution system back into compliance. This round, as well as the testing completed in December 2019, both came under the action level. 

Now that we have had two consecutive rounds of testing below state and federal action levels, we are no longer required by law to replace seven percent of the lead service lines in our system each year. We will however continue to conduct aggressive water quality testing and work towards replacing all lead service lines by 2026. 

More information about our Community Lead Response and orthophosphate is available at http://lead.pgh2o.com/.

July 21, 2020

Press Release
PWSA Continues Industry-Leading Lead Line Replacement Program

Pittsburgh, PA - Since June 2016, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has replaced over 7,400 public lead service lines and more than 4,700 private lead service lines throughout Pittsburgh. The authority and Mayor William Peduto remain committed to ensuring city residents have safe and clean drinking water. PWSA is on target to replace all lead service lines in its water service area by 2026. 
The comprehensive Lead Service Line Replacement (LSLR) program implemented in 2018 generated the momentum that we are experiencing today. The actions taken by PWSA’s Board of Directors and a change in state law, made it possible to replace private side lead lines at no cost to homeowners while replacing public side lines. This incentive to homeowners, coupled with a dedicated lead team to manage and coordinate the work with our customers, provided the ability to move forward with lead line replacements at a steady pace. 
As part of the 2018 and 2019 neighborhood-based LSLR Programs, PWSA replaced over 6,000 public lead lines and more than 4,600 private lead lines at a cost of $90 million. This includes $49 million in state funding assistance provided by PENNVEST for the 2019 program, which included a $13.7 million grant and a $35.4 million low-interest loan. 

PWSA has surpassed the number of lead line replacements required by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The 2019/2020 compliance year from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020 has been our most productive year. We replaced more than 3,200 public lead service lines – replacing nearly four times the amount of lead service lines required by state regulations.  

Going forward, PWSA will replace lead service lines in conjunction with water main replacement projects taking place across Pittsburgh. Additional PENNVEST funding, totaling $65 million, will support the replacement of over 15 miles of aging distribution pipes and more than 2,000 service lines throughout the city in 2020 and early 2021. This approach is a more efficient way to replace lead lines, and we will continue to implement these projects for years to come. 
Elements of the lead line replacement program will remain the same. PWSA focused its neighborhood-based lead line replacement program by using community-based data to prioritize the most vulnerable neighborhoods. Prioritization was based on blood lead levels in children and the concentration of children under six years old as well as women of child-bearing age. It also included income levels of the neighborhood and the presence of lead service lines. We will continue to use this prioritization model in selecting our areas for water main replacements going forward.
Additionally, PWSA's lead team will continue to manage and oversee the coordination with residents. They ensure residents are aware of the process, have completed the necessary agreement to allow us to replace private side lead service lines, and know what to do before and after construction. PWSA’s construction contractors will continue the successful use of trenchless methods to replace private lead service lines, minimizing construction impacts on our customers. 
The Community Lead Response Advisory Committee remains active in advising PWSA on the procedures developed to provide transparency to community members. The authority is also implementing affordability programs that will help low-income customers remove lead service lines from their homes at no cost.
"Our Community Lead Response programs go over and beyond to protect the health and safety of our customers," stated Will Pickering, PWSA's Executive Director. "With each lead line we replace, we are reducing potential exposure to lead, and improving service reliability.  This project is a priority for PWSA and our community, so we won't stop until this work is complete."

"PWSA has made tremendous strides though its lead line replacement program, doing even more work than what is required by the state. That is a testament to how seriously Pittsburgh has tackled this issue, and how hard we will continue to work for years to come," Mayor Peduto said.

For more information about our Community Lead Response, please visit http://lead.pgh2o.com/.

June 11, 2020

Press Release
PWSA Construction Projects Resume Normal Schedule

Pittsburgh, PA – As Allegheny County moves into the yellow phase of reopening and “Stay at Home Orders” are adjusted, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) will resume its planned construction projects. 

Water mains, stormwater management systems, and other large-scale work will take place to ensure reliable service for customers. Throughout the shut-down, PWSA worked closely with construction firms, City departments, and other utilities to reassess work plans and prepare COVID-19 safety protocols for when construction could resume.  

Some of the projects beginning in May and June are as follows:  

Lead Service Line Replacement: PWSA will continue to replace lead water service lines throughout the water service area to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. This contract began in early 2019 and still has approximately 700 lead service lines to replace to complete the work. When a private lead service line is found connected to a public lead line, PWSA will replace it at no cost to the homeowner. To date, PWSA has replaced nearly 7,000 lead service lines throughout the water service area. Visit lead.pgh2o.com for more.  

Highland Park – Restoration of Reservoir Wall: Restoration of the Highland I Reservoir parapet wall was one of the few critical infrastructure projects to continue during the COVID-19 lockdown. Over the past few months, crews completed demolition and poured the remaining parts of the concrete wall. They are now completing the installation of the railing and are coordinating with the City Department of Public Works on the work needed to repave the walkway around the Reservoir. The restoration will prevent most wildlife from wading into the reservoir, improves the overall safety of this source of drinking water, and enhances the overall appearance of this public amenity. Visit pgh2o.com/highland-i-reservoir-security-improvements for more. 

Saw Mill Run Stream Restoration: This project focuses on restoring two sites within the stream in the Overbrook neighborhood. The low wall of boulders installed along the base of the stream and new, healthy vegetation will stabilize the banks of Saw Mill Run and slow the flow of fast moving water. When complete, it will stabilize the stream bank, help to reduce pollutants from entering the stream, and improve water quality in Saw Mill Run. Visit pgh2o.com/SawMillRun for more.  

Volunteers Field Stormwater Project: Crews will soon plant the vegetation needed to complete the recently installed rain garden in Volunteers Field. Its stone basin, sandy soil, and vegetation work together to allow water to absorb into the ground. It will help to reduce stormwater runoff and filter pollutants from rainwater. Visit pgh2o.com/VolunteersField for more. 

Greystone Drive Water Main Replacement Project: This project, in the Highland Park neighborhood of the City of Pittsburgh, will replace approximately 550 feet of aging water main, providing more reliable water service to residents. This site was scheduled for replacement after several water main breaks occurred over the past year. Visit pgh2o.com/GreystoneDrive for more. 

Street and Sidewalk Restoration: After water or sewer work occurs, sites are temporarily restored, and a separate team of concrete and asphalt crews return at a later date for full restoration. Construction restrictions that went into place in March of this year delayed this effort approximately two months. For this reason, some customers will have to wait longer than anticipated for patches near their homes or businesses to be fully restored. To keep up with increased infrastructure work and meet demand after construction delays, PWSA will have 12 crews mobilized throughout the service area to lay concrete and asphalt. For more information on this project, including a weekly schedule, visit pgh2o.com/paving

PWSA and its contractors are following strict guidelines established by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health related to the pandemic during all construction work. The following measures are to protect the health of our employees, contractors, and customers. As long as it is recommended by the CDC and PA Department of Health, all work will occur under the following guidelines:  

  • All workers will undergo daily health screenings prior to reporting to work.  
  • All employees will maintain social distancing in the execution of their work, including when communicating with customers.  
  • All employees will wear face masks during their work.  
  • All work surfaces our workers are in contact with will be sanitized prior to leaving the work site.  
  • All work sites will be provided with portable hand-wash facilities or hand sanitizer.  

Although delays have impacted 2020 construction schedules, PWSA will continue to implement its over $200 million capital improvement program to ensure safe and reliable service for customers. To learn more about all PWSA projects, find contact info for local construction work, and to visit the Search All Projects page, visit pgh2o.com.

March 17, 2020

Press Release
PWSA Submits Multi-Year PUC Rate Request

Pittsburgh, PA - Today, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) filed a multi-year rate request with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). The PUC will evaluate the request, which includes revenue increases totaling $43.8 million in 2021 and $12.6 million in 2022, as well as a more robust customer assistance program. The PUC review process can take up to nine months. 

The PUC approved our first rate filing last year, which provided an additional $21 million per year to spend on infrastructure improvements throughout our water system. We are using this funding to aggressively replace lead service lines, improve our drinking water treatment, renew aging sewer lines, and design stormwater projects to reduce pollution and sewer overflows. We invested over $100 million on capital improvements last year, and this year we plan to invest $200 million in our capital program.

“Our rate proposal allows us to build upon our recent accomplishments and further our progress toward modern water treatment, reliable water delivery, and sewage conveyance systems that current and future residents can count on,” stated Robert Weimar, PWSA’s executive director. “We recognize the burden utility rate increases place on our customers, which is why we’re proposing an even more generous bill discount program for our most vulnerable residents.”

The rate filing includes a plan to raise an additional $43.8 million in 2021 and $12.6 million in 2022. Included in this amount is a request for a Distribution System Improvement Charge (DSIC) assigned at 10 percent of the fixed monthly charges. The DSIC provides utilities with the ability to place a small surcharge on a customer’s monthly bill to fund PUC-approved upgrades to water and sewer mains.

As part of this rate filing, we have also submitted a proposal outlining the structure for a stormwater program, as required by the PUC’s 2018 Final Implementation Order. This proposal does not include a stormwater fee at this time. If the PUC approves this submittal, a stormwater fee would be considered in a separate rate filing.

What does this mean for customers?

The typical residential customer using 3,000 gallons of water currently pays $72.49 per month under the existing rates. If our rates are approved by the PUC next year, this would increase to $86.31 or by $13.82 per month.

Requested Rates - Residential Customers

| Minimum Charges | Monthly Usage Charges|

2020 Existing Water

2020 Existing Sewer2020 Existing Total2021 Proposed Water2021 Proposed Sewer2021 Proposed TotalMonthly Impact $

Minimum charges are based on a customer's meter size. The typical residential customer has a 5/8 inch meter.

The proposal also includes an expansion of our Bill Discount Program. If approved by the PUC, income-eligible households will receive a 100 percent reduction in monthly fixed charges. The average residential customer using 3,000 gallons of water a month would pay $46.35 or an increase of $0.53. 

We’re committed to balancing the needs of our most vulnerable populations, while also delivering a water system that our customers can rely on now and into the future. Learn more about the existing assistance programs and see if you qualify at www.pgh2o.com/CAP.

Requested Rates - Customers Eligible for Bill Discount Program

| Minimum Charges | Monthly Usage Charges|

2020 Existing Water

2020 Existing Sewer2020 Existing Total2021 Proposed Water2021 Proposed Sewer2021 Proposed TotalMonthly Impact $

Minimum charges are based on a customer's meter size. The typical residential customer has a 5/8 inch meter.

“We are taking every reasonable step to provide our customers with safe and reliable water services at the lowest possible rates,” Board Chair, Paul Leger stated. “With PUC oversight there is greater transparency and accountability throughout the process.”

PUC Rate Setting Process and Oversight

Pittsburgh ratepayers will have an opportunity to participate in the rate-setting process. The PUC will likely hold public hearings on the proposal. PWSA will provide public testimony to justify and explain the requested rates. The Pennsylvania Office of the Consumer Advocate and Small Business Advocate will also review and comment on the request. The PUC may elect to change the rates included in the rate filing. 

The PUC began providing oversight of our customer service, operations, and rate-making after the Governor signed Act 65 in December 2017. We are the first municipal authority to be regulated by the PUC. For more information on PUC oversight and actions customers can take in response to the rate request, please visit www.pgh2o.com/customer-rights

As a publicly owned authority, every dollar we collect in rate revenue is invested back into the organization to improve drinking water, sewer, and stormwater services. We never lose sight that this is your water. We are proud to serve Pittsburgh and are dedicated to providing the water services you expect and deserve.

For more information about the rate filing, please visit www.pgh2o.com/ourwaterfuture. Customers will receive a detailed explanation of the rate proposal in their March bill.

January 29, 2020

Press Release
PENNVEST Awards PWSA $65M Low-Interest Loan

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) board of directors today approved a funding offer for more than $65 million in low interest loans to the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA) for the first phase of a comprehensive infrastructure replacement program. The offer is the single largest drinking water funding offer in PENNVEST’s thirty-one year history. 
The award will support the first phase of a small diameter main replacement plan for the PWSA service area, which will total more than $326 million upon completion. Initial improvements financed by this award include the replacement of just under 80,000 linear feet of aging water distribution mains, along with the publicly owned portions of more than 2000 water service lines, including approximately 850 lead public service lines. Where the private portion of the service line is also lead, it will be replaced as well. The PWSA service area covers more than 300,000 residents in and around the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.
"Tackling Pittsburgh's aging infrastructure after decades of disinvestment hasn't been easy, but with the leadership of Governor Wolf, PENNVEST and PWSA, we're making sure our water is safe and clean for generations of future residents," Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto said.
“Pennsylvania has some of the oldest infrastructure in our nation,” said Eric Menzer, chairman of the PENNVEST board of directors. “The Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority continues to be a responsible authority providing clean, sustainable water systems to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania residents. Their commitment to health and safety is evidenced by their plan for more than $326 million in investment over the coming years and PENNVEST is committed to continuing as a partner in that process every step of the way.”
“This funding will allow us to continue and expand our infrastructure renewal efforts. By proactively replacing aging water mains throughout our system, we can improve system reliability and reduce the frequency and severity of service disruptions, while also continuing to aggressively replace lead service lines,” said PWSA Executive Director Robert Weimar. “We’re very thankful to the PENNVEST Board, Governor Wolf, Mayor Peduto, and our city and state legislative leaders for this crucial support, which we project will save our ratepayers $20 million over the next 20 years.” 
Since its inception in 1988, PENNVEST has funded nearly 200 clean water projects throughout Allegheny County, providing over $500 million in funding.

January 24, 2020

PWSA in the News: Community Lead Response Wraps up a Successful 2019

We are pleased to announce continued success with the Community Lead Response by again surpassing the number of lead line replacements required by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In 2019, we replaced a total of 3,202 public lead service lines, which far exceeded the DEP requirement to replace 855 lead lines between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. More than 2,054 lead water service lines were replaced in 2018. 

The 2019 Lead Service Line Replacement Program kicked off in spring of 2019, funded by a $49 million low-interest loan and grant from The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). Under this program, we replaced public lead service lines as well as private lead lines when they are found connected to a public lead line. These replacements, as well as plumbing upgrades that are required as a result of the work, come at no cost to the customer. Since our lead line replacement program first began in 2016, over 6,100 public lead service lines have been removed from the water system.

You can read more about our Community Lead Response at lead.pgh2o.com.

January 24, 2020

Entering 2020 With a Healthier System

With over $100 million invested in our infrastructure, 2019 was our most productive year ever, and we’re poised to continue to deliver for our customers in 2020.  

**Sewer Improvements **

Our sewer system has served us well for over a century, but we must begin to rehabilitate these pipes to avoid dangerous situations like backups or flooding. In 2019, we lined nearly five miles of sewer, which adds decades of life to the line by creating a new barrier, or sleeve, inside the old pipe. Additionally, over 1,700 storm drains were cleaned and 800 were replaced, ensuring that our sewers can properly channel stormwater away from streets, homes, and businesses around the city. We will line an additional 16 miles of sewers in 2020. 

Water System Rehabilitation

We worked to rehabilitate some of our larger water facilities, like the Lanpher Reservoir that serves the northern neighborhoods Pittsburgh. We’re also working to return the Microfiltration Plant in Highland Park back into service, which serves many of our customers in the east end of the city. Ultraviolet disinfection systems have been installed and we will continue our project to upgrade the walkway, wall, and railing around the open reservoir in Highland Park. Continuing our progress into 2020, we’re also busy designing over 15 miles of new water mains. 

New Solutions to Stormwater Issues

Our approach to stormwater challenges is dynamic, as there is not a single solution for every neighborhood. We’re collecting data on the pattern of flooding, basement backups, and geological shifts caused by the increased number of heavy storm events. In 2019, we implemented stream bank restorations in Brookline, rain gardens in Carrick, and stormwater sensors in Four Mile Run to help us manage excess water naturally. We are currently designing 24 projects, some of which will begin in 2020, all in effort to reduce the negative effects of increased stormwater in the area. These projects will help reduce pollution in our waterways and improve public health and safety for our customers. 

A Stronger PWSA

These crucial improvements to our water, sewer, and stormwater systems require investment from our customers. This also means we need improvements to our assistance programs that make our services affordable for all customers. We continued to expand and promote all our income assistance programs and will continue to learn from experts and water providers around the country to create the best assistance programs possible.   

With a successful 2019 behind us, we look forward to continuing to improve and taking on new challenges in 2020. To follow our progress, visit pgh2o.com/projects-maintenance and     headwaters.pgh2o.com

November 21, 2019

PWSA Releases 2019 Update "Pittsburgh's Water Future: PGH2O 2030 and Beyond"

Today Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority released a 2019 summary recap of milestones and achievements.

Pittsburgh, PA - Today Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority released a 2019 summary recap of milestones and achievements. The 2019 update builds on the report released last year by the Authority, Pittsburgh’s Water Future: PGH2O 2030 and Beyond.

PGH2O 2030, a 12-year plan for Pittsburgh’s water systems first released in 2018, included plans for drinking water, stormwater projects, and our sewer system. The plan laid out Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s vision for rebuilding and upgrading these critical systems for the benefit of Pittsburghers today and for generations to come.

PWSA Executive Director Bob Weimar said, “We are proud of the new chapter we’ve started at PWSA and how far we’ve come in the last few years. With the lead line replacement program running ahead of schedule, orthophosphate added to our system to help stop lead corrosion, and major renovations at our Highland Park #1 reservoir and microfiltration water treatment plant, PWSA has accomplished a tremendous amount in 2019. We know there is still so much to do if we want to accomplish the goals we set out in the 2030 plan, but PWSA is accelerating our rate of systemwide improvement and we thank the city of Pittsburgh for continuing to support our efforts to lead us into 2030 and beyond.”

PWSA Board Chair Paul Leger said, “The recent progress we have made in updating a water system that is over 100 years old is nothing short of amazing. PWSA staff have met major milestones despite incredible odds. We will remain focused until we finish this critical work for the benefit of the public.”

Over the past year, PWSA made significant progress on the goals outlined in the PGH2O 2030 plan. Now PWSA is providing a 2019 update, which highlights key projects including:

  1. Adding orthophosphate to the drinking water system to reduce lead pipe corrosion.
  2. Accelerating lead line replacements.
  3. Working collaboratively with the City on pressing stormwater issues.
  4. Improving and returning Highland Park Reservoir #1 and microfiltration water treatment plant to service and renewing the Herron Hill Reservoir.
  5. Enhancing customer assistance programs.
  6. Affirming public ownership of Pittsburgh’s water.

Looking ahead to 2020, PWSA is prepared to deliver even more capital improvement projects to continue to secure our drinking water and rebuild aging sewers. As many neighborhoods in the city increasingly face negative impacts from severe storms, PWSA is also stepping up to improve stormwater management. Unmanaged stormwater can lead to a number of environmental, public health and public safety problems, and an innovative, integrated approach will be necessary for Pittsburgh to better manage its stormwater and exceed water quality standards.