PWSA customers to receive filters to reduce lead levels in drinking water

PITTSBURGH — The city of Pittsburgh has partnered with Peoples Gas and the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority to provide PWSA customers with filters to reduce high lead levels in drinking water, Mayor William Peduto announced Wednesday.

The city said it plans to offer the free filters, a $1 million investment, to all homeowners in Pittsburgh. Priority in issuing them will be given to residents whose lines test at or above 10 parts per billion for lead, those in areas where the PWSA will be doing its own lead service line replacements starting in the spring and to low-income residents.

“We're not putting any criteria on it based on income or whether or not you have kids. It will be available to every Pittsburgher,” Peduto said.

The PWSA released the following statement:

"The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) supports Mayor William Peduto's free lead water filter initiative. The PWSA Board of Directors is prepared to contribute $250,000 to the program through a board action at its next meeting on March 24, 2017."

Chris Tucker lives in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood and is concerned for his daughter’s health. He said the filters aren’t enough to satisfy him. He wants a long-term solution.

“I think it would be better to actually do something about the lead instead of just giving you a filter,” Tucker said. “It's not our faucets, it's the water system itself. It's not that we need filters, we need better water treatment.”

The announcement about the filters comes in the wake of Councilwoman and PWSA board member Deb Gross’ calls on the city to provide a short-term fix.

“While we are working on much-needed long-term PWSA infrastructure upgrades, as well as systematic changes to the authority's operational and financial inadequacies, this short-term solution will help keep residents safe from unsafe lead levels in their water,” Peduto said in a news release.

Timeline: Lead levels in Pittsburgh water

Aimee Howard, who lives in Pittsburgh’s Regent Square neighborhood, is relieved to know parents will be able to better protect their children from lead exposure, but wishes action had been taken sooner by the city. Tests on her 14-month-old daughter showed that she had been exposed to high levels of lead.

“I was scared. I drink the water too. I don't have a filter or anything on my sink. That's where I get my water from,” Howard said.

Filters will also be offered to schools and community and senior centers.

Homeowners will be provided with “point of use” filters that are installed at the tap, while schools and public facilities will receive “point of entry” filters that are attached to inflow water pipes and filter all water that goes into the buildings. The filters will be distributed in the spring, but details of exactly when and how are still being worked out.

Community Empowerment Association Executive Director Rashad Byrdsong, who has pushed for solutions from the city and county, is happy to see action being taken.

“One of the things I feel has been a challenge is people coming together to talk about it, so I'm glad to see the mayor taking this on as a priority,” Byrdsong said.

The distribution of filters is part of the city’s Safe Water Plan, which includes a low interest loan program to help residents replace their own lead lines. However, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner argues that homeowners shouldn’t have to pay for mistakes made by the PWSA.


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