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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.
This work is part of the Water Reliability Plan, a series of once-in-a-generation projects to renew key components of our water production and distribution system.
This spring, PWSA embarked on a $24 million investment in its covered reservoir, located in Highland Park. Constructed between 1897 and 1903, the Highland II Reservoir supplies water to portions of Squirrel Hill, Downtown, South Side, and West End. With a capacity of 125 million gallons, it is a crucial part of our water distribution system. As part of this project, PWSA’s contractor crews will remove the existing liner and cover and install a new liner, floating cover and supplemental equipment, like rainwater removal pumps.
Work began in March of 2022 and is estimated that it will be completed in December 2022.
This work is part of the Water Reliability Plan, a series of once-in-a-generation projects to renew key components of our water production and distribution system. After work on the reservoir is complete, it will be used as an alternative water supply point for other parts of our system that are taken offline for upgrades.
To read more about this project and other Water Reliability Plan initiatives, visit our website.
This survey will give us a detailed view of customer perceptions and attitudes, and highlight for us actions we can take to continue to improve our relationships with those we serve.
Here at PWSA, we’ve talked a lot recently about our ongoing evolution: one with a robust emphasis on public health, the environment, and our responsibility to serve as steadfast stewards of a vital public asset. A key element of this transformation journey is centered around further strengthening experiences for those that rely on our water services each and every day – our customers.
That’s why I’m happy to announce that PWSA is this year launching a customer satisfaction survey.
Our overall goals in conducting this survey are to:
In other words, this survey will give us a detailed view of customer perceptions and attitudes, and highlight for us actions we can take to continue to improve our relationships with those we serve.
While not everyone in our service area will be asked to participate, if you are contacted to take this survey, we ask that you complete it openly and honestly.
Following completion of the survey period, we’ll work to fully understand and interpret the survey results and determine what opportunities we have for improvement. We’ll be sure to share some of the actions we’re undertaking in this regard in future communications.
Thank you in advance for your engagement with this important and exciting project!
Event highlights how PWSA is tackling Pittsburgh’s water infrastructure needs
From clean water to safe transportation, and reliable broadband – investing in quality, affordable infrastructure is essential across the nation and locally here in Pittsburgh.
To help drive home the criticality of reliable infrastructure in every one of our communities, just last week PWSA participated in the 10th annual United for Infrastructure national advocacy and educational event. From May 16 – May 20, PWSA joined businesses, labor organizations, and elected officials across the country to spread the word around the importance of investing in our nation’s infrastructure and to share information about some of our most important infrastructure investments.
United for Infrastructure provided PWSA with an additional opportunity to highlight the historic investments we are making in our water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure, which thousands of customers and Pittsburgh residents
rely on each day. From the comprehensive projects in our Water Reliability Plan to the water, sewer, and stormwater projects happening in our neighborhoods, our community is watching first-hand the renewal of Pittsburgh’s complex water system.
Prior to the kickoff of United for Infrastructure in the Pittsburgh region, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featured PWSA’s Water Reliability Plan – a series of once-in-a-generation projects that will modernize our water distribution system – in a recent weekend edition. This long-form article gives a detailed overview of our water distribution system, including how water makes it from the river to your tap, and highlights how we’re building redundancy into the system through several infrastructure projects – housed under the umbrella of our Water Reliability Plan.
The series of projects within the Water Reliability Plan are the most ambitious investment in PWSA’s modern history. Over the next several years, we will invest $470 million to renew critical components of our water production and distribution system. This includes large transmission pipes, reservoirs, pump stations, and electrical systems that help deliver water.
Ratepayer dollars will help fund these projects, and like many of our water main and sewer rehabilitation projects, we are aggressively pursuing state and federal funding for the work.
We encourage you to check out the full Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article. For a comprehensive overview of our participation and highlighted projects, please visit our National Water Sector Events page and follow PWSA on social media. As always, for a list of current and future projects, visit our Projects & Maintenance site.
PWSA is proud to have participated in this national event and to have shared important information regarding our infrastructure renewal projects. While our work as public servants is never done, we at PWSA are confident the strategic projects and priorities we’ve been undertaking will further transform our water system while rebuilding trust with the public we serve.
Local, state and federal leaders gathered in Pittsburgh this month to highlight the progress of Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s (PWSA) lead line replacement program and applaud plans for removing lead lines from every daycare in Pittsburgh. Since PWSA established its Community Lead Response program in 2016, it has replaced 8,883 public lead service lines and 5,846 private lead service lines, representing a total of more than 52 miles of lead lines removed from Pittsburgh’s water system. As part of PWSA’s Priority Lead Service Line Replacement Project in 2022, no-cost lead service line replacement will be available for all daycare facilities in PWSA’s service area.
“We are so impressed by Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s leadership in lead service line removal and believe this program can truly be a model for the rest of the country,” says Mami Hara, US Water Alliance CEO. “Critical to PWSA’s success has been the significant financial support of state and federal partners. Many communities want to step up and replace their lead lines, but they need that financial support to be able to do so. We’re thrilled that billions of dollars were included in last year’s federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation to address lead, so more communities ensure safe drinking water for all.”
“PWSA is proud to continue our work replacing lead service lines at no cost for some of our most at-risk populations,” says Will Pickering, PWSA CEO. “With each lead line we replace, we are reducing potential exposure to lead for those we serve. As stewards of our vital water system and infrastructure, we’re committed to protecting the health and safety of our communities by providing all of our customers with safe, high-quality drinking water.”
In addition to addressing daycares this year, PWSA is also replacing eight miles of aging water mains and hundreds of lead service lines across its water service area as part of its annual water infrastructure upgrades. PWSA is also replacing lead lines in priority neighborhoods, thanks to $17 million from the American Rescue Plan.
Funding through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) and other state and federal sources has been key to PWSA’s success. The Priority Lead Service Line Replacement Project is made possible by a $4.7 million dollar funding package from PENNVEST. Since 2018, PWSA has applied for and received over $152 million in PENNVEST funding, of which $19 million has been grants that do not have to be repaid.
The American Rescue Plan is funding the replacement of some 750 public lead lines in Pittsburgh, according to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority.
The money for this $17 million project comes out of the City of Pittsburgh’s pot of $355 million it was allotted from last year’s $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package.
Typically, when there’s a construction project such as lead-line replacement, the utility must take out a loan.
“This is cash in hand that we are getting from the federal government. So instead of carrying that debt, we’re able to pay cash to the contractors,” said the authority’s executive director Will Pickering. “That means we don’t have to ask ratepayers for rate increases.”
In addition to the federal funding, another $4.7 million from the state will go toward replacing another 250 lines.
The non-profit municipal utility says it is focusing efforts in residential areas with elevated lead levels and on lines that supply water to child care facilities.
Lead is a neurotoxin that impacts children’s brain development. High levels can cause irreversible damage.
“Lead can be found in many sources throughout a home. It can be found in paint and dust and soil and water. And [lead line replacement] is getting at one of those primary sources of contamination and impact to a child’s health,” said Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, an Allegheny County Council representative and head of Women for a Healthy Environment.
Since 2016, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority reports it has replaced more than 8,800 public lead lines with those made out of copper and high-quality plastic. An additional 5,000 private water lines have also been switched out.
An estimated 7,750 public lines remain; the city aims to remove these by 2026.
**Pittsburgh, PA **- Today the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA) hosted federal, state, and local leaders to celebrate the launch of its Priority Lead Service Line Replacement Project, PWSA’s newest program to replace lead service lines throughout our communities. Through this critical and targeted project, which is planned to be completed by the end of this year, PWSA will identify and replace lead service lines at locations with elevated lead test kit results and at all daycare facilities in its water service area.
Joining PWSA’s CEO Will Pickering were Congressman Mike Doyle, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Water Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox, US Water Alliance CEO Mami Hara, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Chairman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille, and other community leaders.
“PWSA is proud to continue our work replacing lead service lines at no cost for some of our most at-risk residents,” said PWSA CEO Will Pickering. “With each lead line we replace, we are reducing potential exposure to lead. As stewards of our vital water system and infrastructure, we're committed to protecting the health and safety of our communities by providing all of our customers with safe, high-quality drinking water,” he continued.
“EPA applauds prioritizing funding through the State Revolving Fund to get the lead out of Pittsburgh’s water quickly, equitably, and across whole neighborhoods,” said U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Pittsburgh’s plan to remove all lead pipes in the city, including from daycares where children learn and develop, serves as a call to action to cities across the country. Through federal, state, and local partnership, we can realize President Biden’s vision of replacing every lead service line across America.”
Removing lead service lines is one of the most proactive ways to reduce lead exposure and provide Pittsburgh residents with safe, high-quality drinking water. Since the establishment of PWSA’s industry-leading Community Lead Response program in 2016, it has replaced 8,883 public lead service lines and 5,846 private lead service lines. That represents a total of more than 52 miles of lead lines removed from Pittsburgh's water system.
As part of PWSA's Priority Lead Service Line Replacement Project, no-cost lead service line replacement will be available for all daycare facilities in PWSA's service area and properties where lead levels exceed 15 parts per billion, the EPA action level. Through this program, PWSA will also work with its community partner, Women for a Healthy Environment, to identify and work to remove other potential sources of lead in a building.
The Priority Lead Service Line Replacement Project is only one of several lead line replacement efforts taking place in 2022. PWSA is replacing eight miles of aging water main and hundreds of lead service lines across its water service area as part of its annual water infrastructure upgrades. The Authority is also replacing more lead lines in priority neighborhoods thanks to $17 million from the American Rescue Plan.
Funding through PENNVEST and other state or federal sources has allowed for the continued and aggressive replacement of lead service lines. The Priority Lead Service Line Replacement Project is made possible by a $4.7 million dollar funding package from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). Since 2018, PWSA has applied for and received over $152 million in PENNVEST funding, of which $19 million has been grants which do not have to be repaid. These low-interest loans and grants are estimated to have saved ratepayers over $140 million.
“Working with PENNVEST to identify projects and opportunities is a great way for public water systems like PWSA to address critical infrastructure needs and ensure that the people of Pennsylvania are getting clean, safe drinking water from their taps,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
“We are extremely proud to celebrate the success of PWSA’s lead service line replacement program,” said Deputy Mayor Jake Pawlak. “So far they have removed 8,900 lead service lines since 2016 and are committed to removing all the lead service lines in our city. We are proud to support the next phase of this vital project with $17M in funding thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act.”
Work will increase resiliency in the water distribution system
This week, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority took Rising Main 3, a large-diameter water main in Highland Park, out of service for rehabilitation. This project, part of the Water Reliability Plan, is the first of several once-in-a-generation projects that will take place over the next several years.
The rehabilitation of Rising Main 3 will improve the reliability of our water system and improve hydraulic performance to distribute water from one part of the system to another. Rising Main 3 carries water from the Bruecken Pump Station to the Highland II Reservoir. While under construction, Rising Main 4, a redundant, parallel water main, will continue to supply water to the reservoir. Rehabilitation of Rising Main 3 will continue through 2022 and Rising Main 4 will also undergo rehabilitation in 2023. We will invest nearly $12 million over the next two years on both projects.
This work comes after lengthy inspection and design work that began in 2019. PWSA's engineering team assessed the condition of Rising Main 3 and nearby Rising Main 4 using excavations and robotic exploratory tools to photograph the entire length of both pipes. Extensive inspection of the pipe in the planning phase ensures that the rehabilitation is done efficiently.
Much of Pittsburgh’s water infrastructure was constructed a century ago and has served us well for generations. It is now time to rebuild our large water pumping, distribution and storage systems so current and future generations of customers can enjoy secure, reliable water services.
Over the next five years, we will embark upon a remarkable journey to strengthen the heart of our water system through a series of projects identified in the Water Reliability Plan. These projects will happen sequentially to improve water system resiliency and reliability for decades to come. This is a $300 million investment in Pittsburgh’s water future.
"After years of planning and design, I am thrilled that our Water Reliability Plan projects are entering construction," said PWSA CEO Will Pickering. “Like much of our water system, Rising Main 3 is buried, and out of sight and out of mind for our customers, but is critical to providing safe and reliable water for future generations of Pittsburghers,” he said.
Construction and capital funding remain strong through October.
Through the end of September, PWSA has invested over $72.5 million in capital improvement projects. Projects focusing on the water distribution system remains our highest expenditure category, with $45.5 million invested this year.
The 2020 Small Diameter Water Main Replacement contract is our most active project, followed by the Fifth and Forbes Water Main Replacement Project. The Small Diameter Water Main Replacement Project focuses on the rehabilitation of waterlines across our service area to improve water service reliability. The Fifth and Forbes Water Main Replacement Project is currently under construction and will install new water mains and new service lines for customers along Forbes and Fifth avenues.
PWSA is also investing in our sanitary and storm infrastructure by funding sewer lining and rehabilitation projects. Improving our sanitary network remains a main focal point at PWSA, with close to $7 million spent on projects this year. By committing significant funding to sewer rehabilitation, we can continue to maintain our existing infrastructure and strengthen the system to ensure wastewater is properly conveyed to ALCOSAN.
With the approval of our five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is projected to invest approximately $1.4 billion in projects that will modernize critical water infrastructure, optimize the performance of our systems, and improve reliability of essential water services.
As a publicly owned and operated utility, every dollar we receive is reinvested back into our water, wastewater, and stormwater systems. The 2022 – 2026 CIP is an ambitious plan that describes how ratepayer dollars will be used to deliver reliable water services. As these projects are completed, our customers, Pittsburgh, and the region will benefit by having a system that is built to meet the demands that today’s population and economy places on a modern water utility.
This means that improvements to our water infrastructure will ensure the reliability of our water services, that century-old sewer lines will be fortified to keep wastewater flowing, and that new stormwater infrastructure will help our neighborhoods become more resilient to the impacts of increased rainfall and climate change.
In 2022 we anticipate investing approximately $181 million in a wide variety of capital projects, which will be the largest annual capital outlay in our history and a nearly 56 percent increase from 2021’s forecasted total. Investment will gradually increase through 2026 and will result in the completion of critical projects that will improve the safety and reliability of our water future for many years to come.
**Ongoing Investment in Infrastructure **
The past several years have focused on the replacement of lead service lines with the greatest amount of capital spending being allocated to the water distribution system. The 2022-2026 Capital Improvement Plan accounts for the level of investment necessary to continue removing lead service lines while turning our attention to other essential water, wastewater, and stormwater projects.
Over the next five years, we will invest nearly $300 million in the Water Reliability Plan, a series of large-scale water improvement projects that will strengthen our water system, add redundancy, and provide an uninterrupted supply of safe, quality water.
Customers will also see improvements in our wastewater infrastructure, primarily focusing on the rehabilitation of aging sewer lines. Investment in stormwater projects that capture the rain and reduce the amount entering our sewer system will also become more prominent. These wastewater and stormwater investments will result in significant improvements to our sewer system, which due to aging infrastructure and increased rainfall requires immediate attention.
To view the full version of the 2022-2026 Capital Improvement Program and other financial reports, please visit Pgh2o.com/about-us/finance.
Pittsburgh, PA - After input from the community and negotiations with various stakeholders, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) has filed with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) a proposed settlement regarding its 2022 and 2023 water, wastewater conveyance, and stormwater rate proposal.
The settlement is still to be reviewed by the presiding PUC administrative law judge, as well as the full Commission, with a final decision expected on or before December 16, 2021.
Additionally, PWSA proposes to establish a new stormwater fee that will restructure how customers are charged for stormwater service. By basing the new fee on the hard or impervious surfaces on a property, we can ensure that all property owners in Pittsburgh contribute a share that is proportional to the amount of runoff generated by their property. This is a more equitable way to charge for stormwater and is different than our current rate structure, which is based on water usage. As part of the implementation of the new stormwater fee, wastewater conveyance rates will decrease since the new stormwater fee will begin to recover the stormwater costs previously included.
To provide customers with safe and reliable water, sewer, and stormwater services, we must invest in the infrastructure we use each day. We are currently implementing an ambitious $1.2 billion capital program that includes replacing water mains, rehabilitating aging sewer lines, constructing new stormwater infrastructure, and implementing the Water Reliability Plan - a series of once-in-a-generation projects to renew key components of our water production and distribution systems.
As a publicly owned and managed water, sewer, and stormwater authority, every dollar we receive from ratepayers is reinvested back into our infrastructure and the improvements we are making to provide high-quality services to our customers.
Impervious surface is the hard surface on a property such as roofs, sidewalks, and parking areas that do not absorb stormwater. These hard surfaces generate stormwater runoff that collects trash and sends polluted water into local waterways. Runoff can also overwhelm our sewer system causing streets to flood, basements to backup, and sewage to overflow into rivers and streams.
In Pittsburgh, the average amount of impervious surface on a property is approximately 1,650 square feet. This is equal to one equivalent residential unit (ERU) of impervious surface, which is the unit of measure for calculating the stormwater fee and is accepted as the industry standard for determining a stormwater fee. The stormwater fee will be applied to all residential and non-residential properties in Pittsburgh in the following way:
Most residential properties, approximately 70%, fall within the Residential Tier 2 classification and will be charged the flat rate of $5.96. Tier 1 is half the amount of Tier 2 or the base rate and Tier 3 is twice the amount of the base rate and the remaining 30% of residential properties fall into these two categories. All non-residential properties will be charged the base rate multiplied by the number of ERU’s on their property. Eligible low-income customers will receive a discount off the stormwater fee.
PWSA has been focusing on improved stormwater management for several years. Currently, several initiatives are underway that will establish a comprehensive approach to managing stormwater. This includes developing a stormwater master plan, updating city codes and ordinances, and constructing innovative stormwater solutions across the city.
After deliberate analysis and input from stakeholders, the stormwater fee will begin to address the wet weather challenges experienced in Pittsburgh. It will provide a dedicated funding source to improve stormwater management, build innovative stormwater infrastructure, reduce sewer overflows, and lessen the amount of pollution entering our rivers and streams.
A stormwater fee based on impervious surface is a more equitable way to charge for stormwater. Our rates are currently based on water usage, which does not consider the amount of runoff generated by a property. Using impervious surface as the standard unit of measure will ensure that each parcel within the city of Pittsburgh is contributing a proportional share to help address our most pressing wet weather challenges. For more information about our plans to manage stormwater, please visit www.pgh2ostormwater.com.
“The new stormwater fee is perhaps the greatest change we have made to our rate structure, and it will significantly change how we fund stormwater management in Pittsburgh,” stated Will Pickering, Chief Executive Officer of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. “We appreciate the input received from the public and our stakeholders as we worked to develop the fee. We will continue our outreach and education to residents and property owners to ensure they are aware of how it will be applied to their bill and how it is being used to invest in needed stormwater infrastructure.”
PWSA's rate increase is carefully allocated to increase revenue where it is needed most. The typical residential customer using 3,000 gallons of water per month currently pays $79.34 per month under the existing rates. When the rate settlement goes into effect in early 2022, this is expected to increase to $84.99 in 2022 or by $5.65 per month. In 2023, this is expected to increase to $86.43 or by $1.44 per month.
The typical residential customer enrolled in our low-income customer assistance Bill Discount Program using 3,000 gallons of water per month currently pays $41.77 per month under the existing rates. If the rate settlement is approved, this would change to $43.09 in 2022 or by $1.32 per month. In 2023 this is expected to increase to $44.15 or by $1.06 per month.
With any rate increase, we must consider the affordability of rates and provide our most vulnerable customers with the assistance they need. This settlement includes additional enhancements to existing customer assistance programs that will help customers reduce outstanding balances, save on their monthly bill, and expand current programs to more customers.
Among other benefits, PWSA will double the monthly arrearage forgiveness credit from $15 to $30 for on-time payments made by customers who are enrolled in the Bill Discount Program and on an active payment plan; very low-income customers enrolled in the Bill Discount Program will receive a 50% discount on water usage charges, and all customers enrolled in the Bill Discount Program will receive an 85% discount on the stormwater charge. Additionally, PWSA will continue to waive reconnection fees for all customers in 2022. We are also expanding the Hardship Grant Program to include sewage-only customers, and all verified low-income customers will automatically be enrolled in the Winter Shutoff Moratorium.
The PGH2O Cares team, established earlier this year, will continue its proactive outreach and education to customers who are eligible for our customer assistance programs. Their one-on-one interaction with customers is providing the extra boost many need to enroll in our programs to receive the support they deserve. PGH2O Cares is an essential feature of our existing customer assistance programs, and we are seeing that their efforts are working to build awareness and increase enrollment.
“We appreciate the public’s participation in our rate-setting process and the support from our customers as we make the needed investment in our infrastructure,” said Alex Sciulli, PWSA’s Board Chair. “This is a critical moment in our history, and we must move forward with these improvements to provide current and future generations with the water services they can rely on.”
In June, the PUC hosted six virtual public hearings to receive comment from the public on PWSA’s rate proposal. One such comment resulted in a reduction of the billing rate for residential customers residing in newly constructed townhomes who are required to install a meter greater than 5/8” for fire protection. All public comments were considered by PWSA and various customer advocates in crafting the settlement, which included the Commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, the Office of Consumer Affairs, the Office of Small Business Advocate, Pittsburgh UNITED, and the City of Pittsburgh.
After incorporating any changes made by the PUC, the settlement will go into effect on or after January 12, 2022. The new rates will result in a $5,817,958 revenue increase in water revenue, a $6,652,259 decrease in wastewater conveyance revenue, and $17,766,816 in stormwater revenue. In 2023, this will result in a revenue increase of $9,985,328 in water revenue, a $12,029,364 decrease in wastewater conveyance revenue, and a $5,932,965 increase in stormwater revenue.
For more information on the rate settlement and our plans for renewing our water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure, please visit pgh2o.com/ourwaterfuture.
Pittsburgh, PA – Today, the City of Pittsburgh announced that the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) has been awarded a $23,970,000 low-interest loan from the Pennsylvania Investment Authority (PENNVEST) for wastewater infrastructure repairs. This funding will jump-start critical work that is needed to strengthen the sewer system and provide PWSA ratepayers with safer, more reliable wastewater services.
PWSA will use the funding to repair approximately 22 miles of sewer collection lines in Homewood, Squirrel Hill, Marshall-Shadeland, Spring Garden, Highland Park and Carrick. The project will aid in the elimination of sewage overflows and reduce infiltration into the collection lines.
“I’d like to thank Governor Wolf for this investment in Pittsburgh’s infrastructure,” said Mayor William Peduto. “We have inherited an infrastructure system that is aging and not equipped to handle the stresses our region has been experiencing. This funding will allow PWSA to continue their work of creating a safe, clean water system that works for our communities.”
“We are thankful for the support of the PENNVEST Board, Governor Wolf, Mayor Peduto, and our city and state legislative leaders for recognizing the essential work that is needed to strengthen our sewer system,” said Will Pickering, PWSA’s Chief Executive Officer. “The intense and frequent storms we’ve experienced this summer have elevated the need to rehabilitate aging sewer lines throughout Pittsburgh. This infusion of state funding will save ratepayers approximately $16 million in comparison to traditional municipal financing."
This project was one of four projects selected statewide for wastewater infrastructure improvements and is funded through the Clean Water State Revolving Funds and PENNVEST.
Pittsburgh, PA – The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) released its annual Water Quality Report which shows the Authority is meeting and exceeding standards for quality and safety in Pittsburgh’s drinking water. The full report is available online at pgh2o.com/2020WaterQuality.
This annual report outlines the treatment process, the effectiveness of water quality testing, and the results of the various contaminants tested for in the Allegheny River (the source of PWSA’s water). Each day, PWSA tests for approximately 100 different chemical and microbial constituents before, during, and after the treatment process and work tirelessly to maximize their reduction and removal from drinking water.
"Over the past few years, PWSA has evolved into a water authority that works for our residents with the lowest lead levels we've seen in twenty years and improved treatment and filtration processes and infrastructure,” said Pittsburgh’s Mayor, William Peduto. “We are proud of the innovations and advancements PWSA has used to create and deliver a higher standard of water quality and ensure our residents have equitable access to public water that is safe for all."
This new video highlights our water testing process and the results of the 2020 Water Quality Report.
In addition to effective water quality testing, there are several other notable water quality improvements that took place in 2020:
Lowest Lead Levels in 20 Years: In July 2020, PWSA announced that lead levels came into compliance with federal regulatory standards. Testing showed PWSA’s 90th percentile lead level to be 5.1 parts per billion (ppb), approximately 10 ppb below the state and federal action level of 15 ppb.
Highland Park Microfiltration Plant: The Highland Park Microfiltration Plant provides a second layer of treatment to water leaving the open Highland I Reservoir. The Microfiltration Plant was taken out of service in 2017 to meet stricter state water quality standards. It was fully restored and placed back into service last year with changes to improve treatment methods, rehabilitate the microfiltration system, and provide greater security around the Highland I Reservoir.
Decreased Turbidity: Turbidity is a measure of water quality that refers to the cloudiness of water caused by suspended solids in our source water. As the solids are filtered out during the treatment process, turbidity levels become lower. PWSA is seeing the lowest turbidity levels in three years, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the Authority’s water treatment process.
Over the next several years, PWSA will implement its Water Reliability Plan, a series of once-in-a-generation projects to renew key components of our water production and distribution systems. These projects, which culminate with the complete restoration of the Clearwell, a large, century-old water storage facility, will strengthen our water system, add needed redundancy, and ensure an uninterrupted supply of quality water to our drinking water customers.
“The PWSA 2020 Water Quality Report shows our best results in years,” said PWSA Chief Executive Officer, Will Pickering. “Our customers can have confidence their water is meeting and exceeding all federal and state regulations. We’ve made tremendous progress mitigating lead levels and improving performance on other water quality measures, and I encourage customers to read the full report to learn more about how we provide this life essential service.”
PWSA’s 2020 Water Quality Report, also referred to as the Consumer Confidence Report, is a requirement of all water systems by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All the contaminants tested for are regulated by the EPA and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. This latest report shows that PWSA met or exceeded all state and federal regulations.
Pittsburgh, PA — The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s Board of Directors were pleased to accept the results of our 2020 Audit at their April 2021 meeting. This is the sixth consecutive unqualified independent financial audit, completed by an external auditor, showing that the Authority's financial statements are fairly and appropriately presented, with no identifiable exceptions, and in compliance with generally accepted principles of accounting.
PWSA remains committed to following all applicable accounting standards while making critical infrastructure investments that will improve the level of service for all customers. PWSA spent $127.3 million on capital projects in 2020—an increase of $19.4 million, or approximately 18 percent, over the $107.9 million expended in 2019. PWSA spent $18.8 million on private lead line replacements in 2020.
Our responsible approach to investment, including the use of low-interest loans and grants from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST), helps us execute our ambitious capital improvement plan while prioritizing ratepayer savings. As of the most recent round of funding we have received approximately $160.6 million from PENNVEST, saving ratepayers a total of $112.0 million since 2018.
In 2020, the Authority closed on a funding award from PENNVEST for the purpose of financing the 2020 Small Diameter Water Main Replacement Project. This award, a $65.2 million loan with an interest rate of 1.00%, continues to fund the replacement of approximately 80,000 feet of water mains and associated connections, including the replacement of public and private lead service lines. In addition, we were recently awarded a $35.5 million low-interest PENNVEST loan and $3.0 million PENNVEST grant totaling $38.5 million to replace 25,000 feet of water service lines throughout our drinking water service area.
Last year, the Authority also completed two significant bond transactions. These transactions led to the assignment of investment-grade credit status, which typically results in lower interest rates that save money in the long term.
“The results of this audit underscore our commitment to transparency,” said Ed Barca, PWSA’s Director of Finance. “Striking a fair balance between rates and our budget remains a chief priority, and we will continue to pursue funding sources that save ratepayer dollars.”
An audit is an official, independent examination of an entity’s accounts and financial information. An unqualified opinion is formed only when the results of this inspection leave no doubt or concerns on the part of the independent auditor as to the soundness of an entity’s financial practices.
The independent audit, performed by Maher Duessel, Certified Public Accountants, verifies that an entity follows standard accounting practices and confirms that department-wide financial processes accomplish the Authority's overall goal to use public funds responsibly.
“Our 2020 Audit reflects the dedicated public service of our Finance Department, who are working tirelessly to ensure that every ratepayer dollar is being used effectively and appropriately,” said Will Pickering, PWSA’s Chief Executive Officer.
Pittsburgh, PA — Today the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) was awarded a $35.5 million low-interest PENNVEST loan and $3.0 million PENNVEST grant totaling $38.5 million to replace 25,000 feet of water service lines throughout our drinking water service area.
“We are thankful for the support of the PENNVEST Board, Governor Wolf, Mayor Peduto, and our city and state legislative leaders for recognizing the essential work we are doing to modernize our water infrastructure,” Will Pickering, PWSA’s Chief Executive Officer said. “This award will save PWSA ratepayers approximately $34.7 million in comparison to issuing a revenue bond,” Pickering stated. “PENNVEST funding has become an important funding source to advance some of our most critical water projects.”
In addition to replacing nearly five miles of water lines, the funding will also be used to replace 59 fire hydrants and approximately 592 lead service lines – helping us to meet our goal of replacing all lead service lines by 2026.
Water main and lead line replacements are a significant part of our capital improvement plan. Each year, we commit to replacing a dedicated amount to improve service reliability, reduce service disruptions, and improve water quality throughout our drinking water service area. We are currently completing an effort to replace 14 miles of water main in ten Pittsburgh neighborhoods and will replace an additional six miles later this year under the 2021 water main replacement project.
PWSA has used PENNVEST funding in the past to help fund the removal of lead lines and replace aging water lines. With this most recent round of funding, we have received approximately $160.6 million saving ratepayers a total of $112.0 million since 2018. While most of the PENNVEST funding are low-interest loans to repay to the state, any grant funding does not need to be repaid and places no burden on our customers.
“Since the majority of our funding comes from ratepayer dollars, funding through PENNVEST helps to construct necessary capital projects while reducing the onus on PWSA customers,” says Ed Barca, PWSA’s Director of Finance. “State and federal funding is necessary for keeping rates as low as possible especially during this time when the investment in our infrastructure can no longer be delayed.”
As a publicly owned and operated water utility, every dollar we receive is reinvested back into the water systems that serve those living and working in Pittsburgh. We will continue to pursue opportunities like PENNVEST to keep rates as affordable as possible.
Pittsburgh, PA - On April 13, 2021, PWSA filed a rate request with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) that, if approved, would provide the necessary additional funding to continue the investment that is needed to improve the safety and reliability of our water systems, advance stormwater solutions, and provide enhanced protections for our most vulnerable customers.
2020 was the most productive year on record for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA). With an investment of $122 million in capital improvements, the Authority is renewing critical water infrastructure, replacing lead service lines and aging water mains, constructing stormwater infrastructure, and rehabilitating sewer pipes that are a century old.
With this level of investment continuing for the next several years, PWSA filed a rate request with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today that, if approved, would provide the necessary additional funding to continue the investment that is needed to improve the safety and reliability of our water systems, advance stormwater solutions, and provide enhanced protections for our most vulnerable customers.
The PUC will evaluate the request, which includes a revenue increase totaling $32.2 million or 17.2% that will be phased in over two years. This proposed amount includes the addition of a new stormwater fee and new enhancements to customer assistance programs. The PUC review process can take up to nine months with the Commission considering the request in early 2022. More information about the rate filing is available at www.pgh2o.com/ourwaterfuture.
“As a publicly owned and controlled utility, every dollar we receive from our customers is invested back into your water systems,” stated Will Pickering, PWSA’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our water infrastructure was built at the turn of the 20th century and has served us well. It is now time to rebuild our system for the next one hundred years so we can provide the quality water services that Pittsburgh expects and deserves.”
In consideration of the financial hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, PWSA is proposing the most minimal rate request to implement its capital improvement plan, expand operations, and maintain customer service levels. The increase will be phased in over two-years to reduce the impact on ratepayers and includes additional enhancements to our customer assistance programs. PWSA is doing everything possible to keep rates as low as possible while meeting our obligations to deliver high quality water services.
**Will there be a stormwater fee? **
PWSA has focused on improved stormwater management for several years and a stormwater fee, if approved, would begin to address many of the wet weather challenges experienced in Pittsburgh. It would provide a dedicated funding source to improve stormwater management, build innovative stormwater infrastructure, reduce sewer overflows, and lessen the amount of pollution entering our rivers and streams.
The proposed stormwater fee is based on the amount of impervious surface on a property. In Pittsburgh, the average amount of impervious surface on a residential property is approximately 1,650 square feet. For the purposes of calculating the stormwater rate for all properties in Pittsburgh, we determined that 1,650 square feet of impervious surface will be equivalent to one residential unit (ERU). ERUs are accepted as the industry standard for determining a stormwater fee. If approved, the stormwater fee will be applied to all residential and non-residential properties in Pittsburgh in the following way:
|Stormwater Customer Categories||ERU||Monthly Rate 2022||Monthly Rate 2023|
|Residential Tier 1|
|(>=400 to <1,015 sf)||.5||$2.99||$3.98|
|Residential Tier 2|
|(>=1,015 to <2,710 sf)||1||$5.96||$7.95|
|Residential Tier 3|
For more information about our plans for managing stormwater and the fee please visit www.pgh2ostormwater.com.
What does this mean for ratepayers if the request is approved by the PUC?
In 2022, rates are proposed to increase by $22.0 million or 11.7% and in 2023, would increase by $10.2 million or by 5.4% for water and wastewater conveyance operations and stormwater management. If approved, this request continues the investment PWSA is making in needed infrastructure improvements.
PWSA’s typical residential customer uses approximately 3,000 gallons of water per month with a 5/8-inch meter and generates stormwater runoff from one ERU. That customer’s total bill would increase from $79.34 per month to $87.19 per month or by 9.89% in 2022, and from $87.19 to $91.05 per month or by 4.43% in 2023.
For a typical residential customer enrolled in PWSA’s Bill Discount Program using 3,000 gallons per month with a 5/8-inch meter and a reduced stormwater fee, the total bill would increase from $41.77 to $45.34 per month or by 8.54% in 2022, and from $45.34 to $47.90 per month or by 5.64% in 2023.
The current rate filing includes proposed enhancements to our customer assistance program that makes these valuable programs available to more customers. They include expanding the Winter Shutoff Moratorium to include adults 65 and older regardless of income, increasing the volumetric discount to 50% for very low-income customers enrolled in the Bill Discount Program, providing a 75% discount on the stormwater fee for all customers enrolled in the Bill Discount Program, and increasing eligibility for the Hardship Grant Program from 150% of the federal poverty level to 300%. Additional assistance opportunities for all PWSA customers, regardless of income, are also included in the rate proposal. For more information about our customer assistance programs, please visit www.pgh2o.com/cap.
“PWSA recognizes the importance of balancing the needs of our customers with the improvements we must make to our water, sewer, and stormwater systems,” says Will Pickering, PWSA’s CEO. “Our proposal builds off the customer protections put in place earlier this year and continues to help make bills as affordable as possible for those who need it most,” Pickering stated. “During these challenging times, the affordability of our rates cannot be ignored. No one should have to choose between paying their water bill and other essential expenses.”
PUC Rate Setting Process and Oversight
PWSA ratepayers will have an opportunity to participate in the PUC’s review of the proposed rates. In the coming months, the PUC will hold public hearings on the proposal. PWSA will provide public testimony to justify and explain the requested rates. The PUC’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement, Pennsylvania Office of the Consumer Advocate and Small Business Advocate will also likely 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 ratemaking after the Governor signed Act 65 in December 2017. We are the first municipal water and wastewater 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.
Pittsburgh, PA - Today, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) announced that it will accept a $7.750 million loan from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) to complete approximately 7.4 miles of sewer rehabilitation work in Brighton Heights, the South Side Slopes, and Hazelwood.
This is a proactive effort to identify aging sewers and complete low-impact improvements to prolong their life. Rehabilitating our sewers will also help to address discharges into the Ohio and Monongahela Rivers. Completing the work via a low-interest, PENNVEST loan will reduce long-term costs to our ratepayers while providing adequate funding to advance our capital improvement plan.
While sewers serve a simple purpose – to move sewage and stormwater away from homes and businesses – a sewer failure can be very impactful. When sewer walls crack or collapse, they can cause sinkholes, sewer backups, and sewage service impacts to our customers. Additionally, full sewer replacements can be a costly and time-consuming project. Therefore, PWSA is focusing the majority of its capital improvement plan to rehabilitation projects that identify high-risk sewers and address them before a failure.
We will use extensive televised footage of our sewers to determine which portions of sewer can be proactively rehabbed before they fail. This work is done without a trench, using sewer lining technology. Sewer liners are a sleeve that is cured to the inside of the pipe, creating a protective barrier that secures cracks in the pipe and prevents leaks for approximately 50 years. Construction on this project is anticipated to begin in May 2021.
“We’re grateful to PENNVEST for their continued support for our infrastructure renewal projects,” said PWSA Chief Executive Officer Will Pickering. “This low interest loan will reduce costs to ratepayers, and help us reduce the risk of sewer backups and sinkholes by upgrading over seven miles of our aging sewers.”
Pittsburgh, PA - Today the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) was invited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to apply for a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan. If approved, it would provide 49% of the funding needed for critical water infrastructure projects that would lead to the complete restoration of the Clearwell, a large, century old water storage facility.
After submitting a letter of interest in October, PWSA was one of 55 applicants invited to move to the next round for these competitive federal loans. The WIFIA program, established in 2014, funds water infrastructure improvements across the country focused on improving water quality, creating jobs, and ensuring access to clean and safe drinking water.
“We are proud of this recognition from the EPA and appreciate the opportunity to advance to the application process,” stated Ed Barca, PWSA’s Director of Finance. “WIFIA funding is highly competitive and our formal application will continue to demonstrate the significance of these projects.”
If PWSA’s application is approved, the low-interest loan would provide approximately $127,901,498 to fund a series of once-in-a-generation projects to renew key components of our water production and distribution systems. These projects will strengthen our water system, add needed redundancy, and ensure an uninterrupted supply of quality water. The capital projects that make up our plan culminate with the restoration of the Clearwell and includes rehabilitating the Aspinwall and Bruecken Pump Stations, replacing reservoir liners and cover systems, updating electrical and backup power systems, restoring pump stations, and repairing or replacing various large-diameter water mains throughout the system.
These critical projects, which total nearly $250 million, are a significant part of our $1.2 billion Capital Improvement Program. We are seeking other funding sources to support the remaining cost of these projects.
Criteria used by the EPA to evaluate projects include project readiness, credit worthiness, and national or regional impact of the project. Our critical water infrastructure projects stood out among 67 letters of interest requesting more than $9 billion and was selected to move forward due to water quality improvements that will benefit our drinking water customers, ability to meet water quality regulations, create jobs, and support the growth of Pittsburgh’s local economy.
“PWSA is embarking upon the largest capital investment in its history. Securing low interest state and federal loans will help to reduce long term costs to our ratepayers,” stated Will Pickering, PWSA’s Chief Executive Officer. “As a publicly owned and controlled utility, every dollar is reinvested back into the water system, and we will continue to pursue opportunities like WIFIA to keep rates as affordable as possible.”
Pittsburgh, PA — The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is proud to announce that its existing Community Lead Response, a multi-faceted approach to remove lead from Pittsburgh’s water distribution system, already meets many of the standards found in the recently upgraded Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). On December 22nd, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced updates to the LCR, a 30-year-old federal regulation that protects communities across the United States from the risks of lead exposure.
PWSA joined other cities with aging lead infrastructure to share their hands-on experience of reducing lead levels in water and replacing lead service lines with the EPA. Since testing over the federal “action limit” in 2016, PWSA’s Community Lead Response team has worked continuously to provide easy-to-understand information about lead in water, provides free lead test kits and water pitcher filters for those with high lead levels and has implemented several multi-million-dollar construction programs to replace lead service lines with a non-lead material.
Some of the updates to the LCR include more accurate testing parameters for lead in tap water. New regulations require testers to sample the fifth bottle of water taken from the tap. Drawing multiple bottles ensures that the last bottle of water has sufficient contact time with the lead service line. PWSA already tests many homes across the distribution system using the EPA's present method to monitor lead and will continue its testing with the revised method.
Water providers are also required to test only homes with confirmed lead service lines when collecting samples for compliance testing. This can be done through historical records or physical inspection. Previously, residents could self-assess their service line and plumbing materials. PWSA’s present program tests homes with confirmed lead service lines, using curb box inspections and other historical data to make the confirmation.
There are new, stricter regulations for water systems that reach 10 ppb in their compliance sampling submitted to regulators. This will require systems to begin lead remediation efforts before they reach the EPA action limit of 15 ppb.
Through extensive scientific and engineering efforts over the past four years, PWSA has shown the lowest lead levels in the distribution system in twenty years, ensuring it is well within federal compliance. Reducing lead levels for all Pittsburgh residents protects public health and ensures the safety of our drinking water.
Providers must also notify customers with elevated tap water samples and provide options for reducing lead. PWSA has already set this standard for itself, reaching out directly to customers with elevated lead levels to determine the source of lead in the home, and providing tips for reducing lead levels like flushing, filters, or lead service line replacement through one of our programs.
Water providers will also begin working with schools and childcare facilities to test for lead in buildings that serve children. This is a new requirement of the LCR and PWSA will begin working with these institutions across Pittsburgh to test water and identify lead risks.
The updated LCR includes a ban on partial lead service line replacements. Removing only a portion of a lead service line can disrupt the pipe and cause dangerous spikes in lead. Additionally, partial replacements leave behind a portion of the lead line which will continue to pose a risk to the residents.
PWSA’s lead service line replacement program engages the property owner when a lead service line is found to coordinate the replacement and fully remove the risk at no cost to the customer. In Pennsylvania, private service line replacement by PWSA was made possible by a change to state legislation that would allow public authorities, like PWSA, to use ratepayer dollars to complete this important work on private property. Reversely, when a customer approaches PWSA ready to replace their private lead service line on their own, PWSA will coordinate to replace the public lead service line at the same time.
Water providers are now required to keep a public inventory of lead service lines. They now must notify homeowners when lead is present and share options for reducing lead. PWSA’s lead service line inventory has been publicly available since 2018, at www.pgh2o.com/leadmap. This map gives residents the tools to make decisions about their tap water. PWSA will adhere to the LCR revisions and begin to notify customers annually of their options if they have a lead service line.
Continuing our efforts
To date, PWSA has replaced over 8,100 public service lines and is working towards its goal of removing all lead from the distribution system by 2026. Since its regulatory lead exceedance in 2016, PWSA has worked hard to invest money in removing the risk of lead from the system and regaining the trust of its customers.
“Many of the revisions that were proposed in the draft are already standard practice,” said PWSA Chief Executive Officer, Will Pickering. “Some of our procedures even exceed the standards set by our federal regulators. We are proud of our program and will begin implementing what is required of us in this LCR update,” he said.
2020 was a year, unlike any other. Punctuated by the pandemic, it forced us to quickly adapt to a new reality while delivering safe and reliable water services. Our top priority was the health and safety of our workforce and our customers.
With these realities in mind, our board voted unanimously to suspend water shutoffs and we waived many of the requirements to enroll in customer assistance programs. Regardless of ability to pay, customers were protected with access to necessary water services.
Despite these challenges, we continued to perform in many notable areas. This summer, lead levels throughout Pittsburgh fell into compliance at 5.1 parts per billion (ppb). This is approximately 10ppb below the state and federal lead action level of 15ppb and are the lowest lead levels Pittsburgh has experienced in 20 years.
The lower lead testing results demonstrate the effectiveness of adding orthophosphate to our drinking water treatment process. In addition, we continued to aggressively replace lead service lines, are monitoring our water treatment improvements, and are working towards our goal of replacing all lead service lines by 2026.
This fall we completed two prominent projects in Highland Park. We restored service to the Microfiltration Plant (MFP) and completed the restoration of the parapet wall around the open Highland I Reservoir. With the completion of these projects, we have improved security around the reservoir, are meeting stricter state water quality standards and have a redundant water system that can better distribute water throughout our entire service area.
The completion of two bond transactions provide a sustainable financial outlook for PWSA. With this funding in place, we have the financial resources to implement our $1.2 billion Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Additionally, we secured a $65,220,000 loan from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). Its low-interest rate of one percent will reduce our costs and in the long-term, generate savings for customers.
Our Customer Assistance Programs, established in 2018, support our most vulnerable customers. When the new rates go into effect on January 14th, so will several enhancements to these programs to simplify the enrollment process and expand accessibility to more customers.
The discount available through the Bill Discount Program will increase from 75% to 100% on fixed-monthly charges and an additional reduction on water usage is available for very low-income customers enrolled in the program. Those customers enrolled in this program and using up to 5,000 gallons of water per month will see a reduction in their total monthly bill.
Additionally, we are expanding eligibility for the Winter Hardship Moratorium to customers at 300% of the federal poverty level and will launch PGH2O Cares, an expanded outreach program to increase enrollment and help customers reduce their bills.
We are proud of these achievements and recognize that this begins a new era at PWSA – one that strikes a balance between the needs of our customers and the improvements we need to make to our water and sewer systems.
As we enter the new year, my priority as Chief Executive Officer is to rebuild trust and re-establish our credibility with customers. Past behavior and mistakes can no longer be an excuse. We have much work to do and the organization is equipped with the resources, talent, and focus to provide our ratepayers with the water services they expect and deserve. This is our resolution to you. On behalf of PWSA, I wish you and your families a safe and happy holiday season.
Pittsburgh, PA - The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) was awarded Special Project of the Year at today’s March of Dimes Pittsburgh Transportation, Building & Construction Award Ceremony. The March of Dimes Awards highlights local leaders and innovative projects in the labor and industry arena. Presented virtually, the Special Project of the Year award recognized our Community Lead Response Program.
The program has become a model for other U.S. cities by achieving several initiatives such as:
“I am honored to accept the Special Project of the Year award for our Community Lead Response Program”, said Executive Director Will Pickering. “The project title is fitting as this has been a community-led effort from our employees, elected officials, consultants, contractors, and customers. Thank you to the March of Dimes Event Leadership for recognizing our commitment to continue to provide safe drinking water for moms and babies."
The recognition comes at a pivotal time in the lead program as we add a new lead service line reimbursement program. The reimbursement program provides homeowners the opportunity to work with a private plumber and receive reimbursement on a tiered scale. The program will increase access to funding for residents not within our planned work areas. PWSA will continue to proactively replace lead lines as we replace aging water infrastructure as part of our capital improvements. See our October 1st press release for more information on how to participate in the reimbursement program.
March of Dimes is an organization that promotes the health and welfare of moms and babies through advocacy, education, and research. Learn more about the March of Dimes mission on their website at https://www.marchofdimes.org.
Pittsburgh, PA – After input from the community and negotiations with various advocates and interested stakeholders, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) has filed with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) a proposed settlement regarding its 2021 water and wastewater rate proposal, which includes additional programs intended to assist customers. The settlement is still to be reviewed by the presiding PUC administrative law judges as well as the full Commission with a final decision expected on or before January 14, 2021.
This settlement includes a 5.7% total increase in base rates for water and wastewater charges, and 5% distribution system improvement charges (DSIC) for both water and sewer. This will amount to a $6.85 increase for the average residential customer using 3,000 gallons of water. If the settlement is approved, customers enrolled in our Bill Discount Program using up to 5,000 gallons of water per month would see a reduction in their total monthly bill compared to existing rates.
We understand that any rate increase we propose must be paired with a comprehensive customer assistance program to make bills as affordable as possible and the settlement proposes a number of customer benefits and improvements to assist customers. Among other improvements, our Bill Discount Program would cover 100% of fixed charges for eligible customers and include a 20% reduction on the cost of water used for some eligible customers. The threshold for our Winter Shutoff Moratorium will increase from 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 300%. In addition to these expansions, PWSA agreed to launch new community programs, like our PGH2O Cares Team, which will work with the community to promote good water conservation practices and help eligible customers enroll in our assistance programs.
In early July, the PUC hosted six virtual public hearings to receive comment from the public on PWSA’s proposed rates. These comments were considered by PWSA and various stakeholders in crafting the settlement, which included the Commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, the Office of Consumer Advocate, the Small Business Advocate and Pittsburgh United.
After incorporating any changes made by the PUC, the settlement will go into effect on or after January 14, 2021. The rate increase will result in a $14,150,000 increase in water revenue and a $4,850,000 increase in wastewater revenue.
In the past, investment in infrastructure was not prioritized and rates did not indicate the real needs of an aging system. PWSA’s leadership team and its workers have begun a new chapter at PWSA, taking stewardship seriously. These rates will be used towards improving our drinking water treatment and distribution system, rebuilding aging sewer lines, and designing innovative stormwater mitigation projects to reduce pollution and sewer overflows. In addition to large capital improvement projects, this increase will allow for thousands of valve maintenance projects, up to 10,000 water meter replacements, and a comprehensive water main flushing program that will improve water quality for our distribution system.
“We are making progress on reversing decades of neglect in our life essential water systems. This rate settlement is a thoughtful compromise between investing in our aging infrastructure while also addressing affordability concerns for our lower income customers,” said Executive Director Will Pickering. “Every dollar paid by our customers will be used to ensure we continue to provide high quality and reliable drinking water and sewer services.”
The settlement does not include PWSA’s request for a multi-year rate increase. Now that it has been filed, both the presiding administrative law judges and the full Commission will consider the proposed resolution of PWSA’s rate increase request before making a final determination.
PWSA’s rate increase is carefully allocated to increase revenue where it is needed most. The typical residential customer using 3,000 gallons of water per month currently pays $72.49 per month under the existing rates. When the rate settlement goes into effect in early 2021, this is expected to increase to $79.34 or by $6.85 per month.
The typical residential customer enrolled in our Bill Discount Program using 3,000 gallons of water per month currently pays $45.83 per month under the existing rates. If the rate settlement is approved, this would change to $41.77 or reduce their bill by $4.06.
What is a DSIC?
Part of the settlement rate increase would come from a DSIC. A DSIC, or distribution system improvement charge, is a charge that is inclusive to the rate increase, which means it is part of the overall increase in rates. It will permit PWSA to charge 5% of its total water revenues and 5% of its total wastewater revenues for use on specific projects allocated for water and sewer improvements. These projects will have a direct benefit to customers and includes improvements such as water main and lead service line replacements and sewer rehabilitation.
If PWSA finds that it is not spending all funds collected from the DSIC charge, the charge can be reduced throughout the year to reflect the needed investment. If there is an excess revenue associated with the DSIC charge at the end of the year, PWSA will refund customers. This flexibility in charges means PWSA can monitor its spending and only charge its customers what is needed.
Expanding our Customer Assistance Program
We understand that rate increases can be a financial burden for some customers, which is why our rate increase was paired with a major expansion of our Customer Assistance Programs. As part of the settlement, the following programs will be made available to those customers who qualify:
If you or someone you know may qualify for any of our income assistance programs, they should call Dollar Energy Fund at 866-762-2348 to begin the process.
“We greatly appreciate the input and negotiation with the parties that occurred over the summer to bring us to the proposed settlement,” said PWSA Board Chair Paul Leger. “Investment in these water and wastewater systems is greatly needed, and we will deliver on our improvement programs with efficiency and equity as our driving forces.”
For more information on PWSA’s roadmap for renewal, visit https://www.pgh2o.com/residential-commercial-customers/rates/our-water-future.
Pittsburgh, PA - On Monday, September 14th, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority opened the main valve of the Microfiltration Plant in Highland Park, restarting the flow of treated water into the PWSA water supply system. The plant is fully operational – distributing approximately 2.5 million gallons of water per day to the approximately 250,000 residents served by the open Highland I Reservoir.
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 high quality water to customers.
The plant treats water from this historic open reservoir, which provides drinking water to customers living in Pittsburgh’s eastern neighborhoods, the Hill District, and parts of Oakland. This accounts for more than half of PWSA’s drinking water customers. It also supplies water to secondary storage facilities including the Garfield Tank, Herron Hill Tank and Reservoir, Bedford Tanks, and Lincoln Tank.
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 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 kills 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.
The total capital cost of all the direct and indirect improvements to support the restoration of the MFP Facility is approximately $14.5 million. Over the next several years, PWSA will invest approximately $312 million for other large system improvements.
“Reopening this unique and state-of-the-art treatment plant allows us to focus on other previously-deferred critical projects,” stated Will Pickering, PWSA Executive Director. “We appreciate our customers’ patience as our team of engineering, construction, and operations experts continues to aggressively modernize our water system.”
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/.
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/.
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:
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.
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 Sewer||2020 Existing Total||2021 Proposed Water||2021 Proposed Sewer||2021 Proposed Total||Monthly 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 Sewer||2020 Existing Total||2021 Proposed Water||2021 Proposed Sewer||2021 Proposed Total||Monthly 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.