PWSA plans multimillion-dollar project to fix lead issues

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority plans to replace more than 1,000 water lines as part of a multimillion-dollar project to improve infrastructure as part of an ongoing problem with lead pipes.

During a meeting Friday, the board announced the beginning of its lead replacement project, with the goal of replacing 1,500 lead service lines by the end of June.

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About 20 to 25 percent of customers throughout the city are dealing with elevated levels of lead in their drinking water. Additionally, the PWSA said some of its records, which go back nearly a century, are proving to be inaccurate.

"Ultimately, we're going to have to identify every line because there's no inventory to tell us where lead is or is not,” said PWSA director of engineering Bob Weimar.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has lowered cameras into curb boxes across the city for the last four months to see if the service lines are made of lead.

Channel 11 learned Friday that task has proved to be challenging, with half of the boxes full of material blocking the cameras’ view. That obstacle is one of several reasons why the PWSA could soon take action for both the short and long term.

In all, the PWSA plans to spend more than $500 million over the next five years on infrastructure. Board member and city councilwoman Deborah Gross said it’s an important step, but more needs to be done to help customers who are at risk now.

"In the near term, where we do find lead, we want to minimize the risk (to) people, and I think that should be buying filters,” Gross said.

Lawrenceville resident Nancy Coleman learned over the summer that she’s one of thousands of customers who has a water line going into her home that is made of lead. Instead of paying thousands of dollars to replace it, Coleman bought a water filter and runs her water every morning.

“It’s aggravating,” Coleman said. “I don’t know if we’re affected by the lead.”

The PWSA will provide free lead testing kits to customers. To order one, email

or call 412-255-2423 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit

.

The PWSA  that it will take 10-14 business days to receive a test kit, and because of the volume of samples coming in, the PWSA estimates 3 to 3 ½ weeks from the date of receipt by the lab to receive results. Customers will be contacted via a phone call or an emailed letter.

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