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.