PITTSBURGH — Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner is demanding that Pittsburgh leadership take action to address elevated lead levels in city water, which she called a “public health crisis.”
Wagner held a news conference Tuesday, in which she compared the situation in Pittsburgh to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
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“Lead is leaching through the lines of one in four homes that are serviced by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority," Wagner said.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said the city has taken steps to protect residents, such as establishing a plan to provide water filters and offering low-interest loans for homeowners to replace lead lines.
Wagner said more needs to be done.
"Water filters are a good first step, but we need a full plan to remove the lead lines from our water system," Wagner said. "We can't let the message to our residents be ‘pay up or get poisoned.’"
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The cost of removing the lead lines is estimated at $25 million.
While Peduto believes removing the lead lines is important, he said the goal is to make sure the PWSA operates effectively to keep all residents safe.
"It is definitely in a crisis. There is no way under the present structure this organization can survive," he said.
Peduto is changing the way the PWSA operates, starting with the addition of several new board members. The agency is also dealing with $1 billion in debt.
"From the very beginning, it was debt-laden and from the very beginning it never had a plan to modernize. Keeping what we have is not the solution,” he said.
Following Wagner’s news conference, Peduto’s chief of staff released the following statement:
Cox Media Group