Jan 26, 2018

Pittsburgh Water Exceeds Federal Threshold for Lead

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is making plans to replace lead lines and potentially add orthophosphate to the water

Pittsburgh faces high lead levels

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) continued to test above the federal threshold for lead. According to samples taken this past fall, 18 out of 114 homes tested showed lead levels at or above 15 ppb, bringing the 90th percentile result to 21 ppb.

The PWSA has tested above the federal threshold since the summer of 2016, reported by Trib Live. When municipal water providers test above the federal threshold for lead contamination they are required to replace a minimum of 7% of lead service lines per year, which would be 1,341 lines out of PWSA’s 17,750 lead lines. However, last year the water authority only replaced 415 lead lines and faced a $2.4 million penalty from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. 

The water authority has proposed adding orthophosphate to the water, a chemical that can potentially reduce the lead that leaches into drinking water. This proposal requires state approval as orthophosphate is not common practice.

In the meantime, the PWSA has announced plans for a $44 million project to replace more than 2,000 lead service lines in 2018 with the ultimate goal of reducing lead contamination to below 15 ppb.

PWSA recently signed an agreement with CWM Environmental to help manage its requests for lead testing, as the authority's laboratory fell out of compliance. CWM will work with PWSA on setting up a compliant lab and will assist in testing operations in tandem with PWSA employees.