The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) continues to expand upon efforts ensuring the quality of drinking water and addressing the risks posed by lead service lines and plumbing. The safety of drinking water is our number one priority and we are committed to transparency while working toward solutions.
There is no detectable level of lead found in the Allegheny River, or in PWSA’s drinking water when it leaves the water treatment plant and travels through our water mains. However, lead can be found in the service lines that run from water mains to homes. These service lines are a joint responsibility; PWSA owns the portion of the line in public space, and homeowners own the portion on private space that connects to their property. Lead can also be found in older household plumbing.
PWSA’s commitment to educating residents about lead in water continues through community outreach meetings, informational materials, social media and a comprehensive www.pgh2o.com/lead-facts webpage. If residents know or suspect they have lead service lines or plumbing, we encourage them to reduce exposure in drinking water by employing the following tips:
- Run your water to flush out lead. If water hasn’t been used for several hours, run it for 15-30 seconds, until it becomes cold, or reaches a steady temperature before using for drinking or cooking. This process flushes lead-containing water from pipes.
- Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Lead dissolves more easily in hot water. Do not drink, cook with, or make baby formula using hot water.
- Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
- Look for alternative sources or treatment of water. Drink bottled water or purchase an NSF water filter that is certified to remove lead.
- Identify if your plumbing fixtures contain lead. There are commercially-available lead check swabs that can detect lead on plumbing surfaces such as solder and pipes. Consider having lead-containing pipes and fixtures replaced.
- Contact PWSA if you decide to replace your lead service line. PWSA will coordinate with residents to replace its portion of lead service line at the same time.
The Authority continues to offer residents free lead testing kits, and has already provided over 5,400 kits to date. Recent changes to the program streamlined the testing process and reduced laboratory turnaround time. PWSA encourages residents who already received kits to perform the test and submit their samples.
PWSA will perform curb box inspections in December to identify remaining lead service lines in public space, starting in areas identified as most likely to have lead present. These inspections will continue in neighborhoods throughout the City. In addition, PWSA is reviewing and digitizing historical service line records, and will make this information available to residents on our webpage in 2017.
The Authority plans to use the results of the customer lead test kits, historical records, and the curb box inspection project to determine the best locations to replace lead service lines in public space. Homeowners with lead lines will be given at least 45-day notice of PWSA’s replacement and are encouraged to coordinate replacing their portion of the service during this time. Coordinating replacement reduces the cost to homeowners and ensures the greatest water quality benefit. Homeowners may also proactively replace their portion of the service line. In these instances, PWSA will provide in-kind replacement of its portion of the service line, including sidewalk restoration.
As part of the drinking water treatment process, PWSA has added anti-corrosive chemicals to help minimize lead corrosion in old service lines since the 1990s, and continuously tests to monitor and improve the process. In the coming weeks, PWSA will begin a “pipe-loop study” project to determine the optimal level and type of anti-corrosives to use for treatment by simulating how treated drinking water reacts when it runs through lead and other pipe materials.
PWSA began collecting a second round of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated lead compliance testing at 200 homes identified to be of the highest risk for lead. The testing concludes in December and the results will be made public in early January 2017.
Many American cities face similar challenges posed by old lead infrastructure. PWSA is committed to working with our community to identify solutions to reduce the risk of lead exposure. In addition to the programs mentioned above, we are exploring opportunities to collaborate with community and government organizations to provide financial assistance for those who cannot afford to replace their lead service lines.
We encourage residents to join us at a one of our district community meeting to learn more. The meeting schedule is posted on our webpage at www.pgh2o.com.
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is the largest combined water and sewer authority in Pennsylvania, serving 300,000 consumers throughout the City of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. Our 250 employees are city residents and are committed to enhancing Pittsburgh’s quality of life by delivering high quality water.
PWSA found high levels of lead in drinking water in some homes. Lead can cause serious health problems. For more information, please call PWSA at 412.255.2423 or visit www.pgh2o.com/lead-facts. If you do not have access to a computer, visit your local library branch and they will help you connect for free. PWSA can also provide paper copies of information upon request.
If you have specific health concerns, consult your health care provider. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that you may want to ask your health care provider about testing children to determine levels of lead in their blood.
Additional resources on lead
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – www.epa.gov/lead
Center for Disease Control – www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips/water.htm
Allegheny County Health Department – www.achd.net/lead
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection – http://www.dep.pa.gov