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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.