This winter, for the first time, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority won't shut off water for low-income residents who haven't paid their bills.
It's one of several steps the utility is taking to make much-needed improvements.
"We think there are things we should be doing to help our residents that, to this point, have not been done,” said interim executive director Bob Weimar. “Not because we didn't want to, but because up to this point, we didn't have the capacity to do."
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The moratorium will be in place from Dec. 1 to March 31. The policy follows the lead of other utilities, like heat and electric companies, that often put a pause on shutoffs during the coldest months.
The vote comes as the board looks for other ways to help low-income customers, Including the establishment of a customer assistance program.
"Some people can't afford it, different months you can afford it more than some months,” said North Side resident Keia Johnson. “I just really think it's a great thing."
The move comes as the PWSA works to make major improvements ordered by the state Department of Environmental Protection, including major repairs to the Lanpher and Highland 1 reservoirs.
The board voted to fund those projects immediately.
"These issues that the DEP has raised, and I'm sure they're going to raise others before we're through, are going to be the principal things we focus on and that's what we tried to budget for this coming year,” Weimar said.
The major projects will be paid for through rate increases on customers. Weimar pointed out PWSA rates remain lower than nearby private companies, like American Water.
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