Professor on Flint water crisis research team calls lead levels in Pittsburgh ‘worrisome'

PITTSBURGH — The lead levels discovered in some drinking water in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods is drawing an alarming comparison to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

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William Clark of Pittsburgh’s North Side is one of 81,000 customers who got a letter this week from the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority that stated he had elevated lead levels in his water.

“We all think about Flint,” he said.


Flint has spent months trying to lower lead levels in its water after residents there were told for years it was safe.

After learning lead levels in Pittsburgh reached 22 parts per billion in some areas, which is well over the safe level of 15 parts per billion, Channel 11 News spoke with Dr. Marc Edwards. Edwards is a professor at Virginia Tech who is on the front lines of the research team for the water crisis in Flint.

“The levels in Pittsburgh are comparable to those reported in Flint,” he said. “I don’t think you have a Flint on your hand, but those levels are worrisome.”

Channel 11 and Clark put the water and his home to the test Thursday night, using a home testing kit that cost $30.

After letting the yellow strip sit in the testing tube for 10 minutes, it tested positive, meaning lead levels were above the safe level. However, the kit did not indicate exactly how high the levels were.

“It’s certainly disturbing,” Clark said. “I’m hoping it’s not as accurate as it claims.”

Channel 11 News learned the PWSA is doing an analysis of joint water lines across the city, mapping out where they are and, in some cases, putting cameras underground to find them.

A spokesperson said PWSA could be required to replace a certain percentage of the lines.

“Something needs to be done fast,” Clark said.

The spokesperson for PWSA also said the organization plans to present its analysis to the state Department of Environmental Protection by the end of September.

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