DEP slaps PWSA with $2.4 million penalty |

DEP slaps PWSA with $2.4 million penalty

Bob Bauder
The Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority drinking water treatment facility is along Freeport Road near Aspinwall.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has penalized the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority $2.4 million for violating various water regulations in recent years.

DEP is permitting the authority to use $1.8 million of the civil penalty to provide low income residents with grants or low interest loans for replacement of lead water lines supplying their homes.

“Typically a community environmental project accounts for not more than half of a penalty assessment, but we felt that this situation warranted a much more robust effort to assist homeowners, upgrade the system and restore public trust in the water that flows from their faucets,” said Ron Schwartz, DEP’s acting southwest regional director.

DEP penalized PWSA for violations that occurred from 2014 through 2017. They included exceeding a federal threshold for lead levels in water, switching chemicals used to limit lead levels in water and failing to replace a required number of lead service lines.

PWSA’s lead problem is mainly attributed to service lines owned by PWSA and homeowners. PWSA had been replacing its own lines made of lead, but said state law prohibited replacement of private lines that typically run from a curb to a house. City officials last year stopped partial line replacements after testing showed it was causing more lead to leech into water.

Authority spokesman Will Pickering said a recent change in state law now allows the authority to replace both sides of a service line.

“We believe this gives us the legal ability to perform private line replacement,” he said. “The board and PWSA agreed that we won’t go forward with any partial line replacement.”

PWSA board members approved an agreement Friday with DEP that requires the authority to replace at least 1,341 lead lines by June 30 and continue with line replacement until lead levels reach federally accepted standards.

The agreement also requires the authority to continue a program of locating and determining the number of lead water lines feeding homes and businesses in Pittsburgh.

Officials have estimated that 20 percent of lines providing water to 80,000 customers are made of lead.

The PWSA board unanimously approved a $2.8 million contract Friday with Michael Baker Inc. to conduct 15,000 line inspections next year. The authority has so far inspected 6,000 lines.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.