PWSA to begin adding lead reduction chemical to tap water by February
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is on schedule to begin adding a chemical to the drinking water supply by February that should resolve the city’s lead contamination problems, PWSA officials said Friday.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection authorized PWSA’s use of orthophosphate on Sept. 24, according to Barry King, the interim director of engineering. King said the authority finalizing plans for the installation of equipment necessary to add orthophosphate to tap water. The construction, estimated to total $2.5 million, includes two small buildings in Highland Park.
Construction should be finished by Jan. 30 and orthophosphate added to the water by the first week of February, King said.
“This is very important to all of us because it is the curative,” said Paul Leger, who chairs the PWSA board of directors. “This solves the problem.”
PWSA will continue flushing fire hydrants across the city to clear sediment from water mains and prepare the pipes for a protective coating of orthophosphate. The coating prevents lead from leaching into the water.
The authority will stop using soda ash and lime to reduce lead containment once it begins adding orthophosphate.
PWSA has been exceeding a federal threshold for lead since summer 2016. Its most recent 90th percentile result, reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in July , was 10 parts per billion, the lowest in eight years. The threshold is 15 parts per billion.
Leger said the authority would continue its lead water pipe replacement program until all lead lines are removed by 2026. PWSA has applied to the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, which supplies funding for water and sewer lines, for a low-interest loan or grant of up to $50 million that would pay for new water lines.
“We still want to replace lead pipes because we don’t want to have lead pipes,” Leger said. “That’s what our customers deserve.”
PWSA Executive Director said the PennVest funds would permit the authority to replace around 2,800 lead lines in 2019. The authority will replace about 2,200 this year, he said.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.