Pittsburgh, PA - The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) released the results from compliance testing for lead and copper required by state and federal regulations today. Results from lead testing taken in December 2016 were evaluated and the 90th percentile value was calculated at 18 parts per billion (ppb). Previous testing in June 2016 resulted in a 90th percentile of 22 ppb for lead. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action level for lead is 15 ppb.
PWSA tested 149 residential sites based on a method prescribed under Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and EPA guidelines. All samples were taken from homes that have, or are expected to have, lead service lines or plumbing. Service lines are the connections from the property to the water main and are considered to be the primary source of lead entering tap water. Samples were taken by the property owners and sent to an independent, certified lab for analysis, and the results were reviewed by DEP. The December 2016 compliance testing results are as follows:
- 51 are non-detect for lead
- 25 are between 2.1 and 4.7 ppb (parts per billion)
- 28 are between 5 and 9.8 ppb
- 25 are between 10 and 14 ppb
- 16 are between 15 and 19 ppb
- 12 are between 20 and 46 ppb
- 2 are between 50 and 160 ppb (The sample that detected a 160 ppb level was taken from a sink that had not been used for several years.)
The 90th percentile is not an average of all samples, but rather a calculation to determine whether 10 percent of the sites exceed the action level of 15 ppb for lead. The December 2016 round of compliance tests resulted in a 90th percentile of 18 ppb. Previous testing in June 2016 resulted in a 90th percentile of 22 ppb. PWSA will repeat compliance testing every six months until the 90th percentile level is below 15 ppb for two consecutive rounds of testing.
There is no detectable level of lead found in PWSA’s drinking water source, the Allegheny River, or in PWSA’s treated drinking water when it travels through water mains. However, lead can be found in old 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.
In response to the high levels of lead found in some homes, PWSA is identifying and removing lead service lines in public space. As the Authority identifies the location of lead service lines, it will make the information available to the public. In addition, PWSA is conducting studies to help determine why lead levels have risen and identify water treatment chemicals, or modifications to the treatment plant, that may reduce corrosion from lead pipes. PWSA is also continuing its public education activities on lead, and working with the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) to identify financial assistance for homeowners to replace their lead service lines.
Lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Although most lead exposure occurs from ingesting lead paint, dust, or lead contaminated soil, EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent may come from drinking water. If residents know or suspect they have lead service lines or plumbing, they are encouraged to reduce exposure in drinking water by using the following recommendations:
Run your water to flush out lead. If you haven’t used your water for several hours, run your cold tap for one minute before using for cooking or drinking. Homes with longer lead water service lines may require flushing for a longer period of time.
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. Purchase a water filter that is certified by NSF to remove lead. Customers can also choose to drink bottled water.
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.
- Test your water for lead. E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 412.255.2423 to request a free lead test kit. This service is available for all homes served by PWSA.
- Get your child’s blood tested. Contact your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how you can get your child tested for lead if you are concerned about exposure.
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. The Authority encourages customers to learn more about lead in water at www.pgh2o.com/lead-facts, engage with us on Twitter @pgh2o, and join us at an upcoming community meeting. Additional information on lead in water, including health risks and protective measures, is available at:
- U.S. EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline - www.epa.gov/lead
- Centers for Disease Control - www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips/water.htm
- Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) - www.achd.net/lead
- Pennsylvania DEP www.dep.pa.gov/lead
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.