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On behalf of the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, I would like to welcome you to our new investor relations website. We appreciate your interest and investment in bonds issued by the Authority, as it allows us to make critical investments in water and sewer infrastructure throughout Pittsburgh. We are committed to maintaining our strong bond ratings, and we are also committed to being as transparent as possible with the investor community and public at large.
I hope you find this website useful as you seek to better understand the credit fundamentals of the Authority. Please do not hesitate to contact our office with suggestions for how we can improve. Thanks again for your interest in our bond program.
Edward Barca, Director of Finance
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.