In July 2020, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) announced lead levels of 5.1 parts per billion (ppb), which is a result well within state and federal regulations. This is approximately 10ppb below the state and federal action level of 15ppb. At 5.1 ppb, this is the lowest lead level we have measured in 20 years.
The lower lead testing results occurred over time. After adding orthophosphate to our drinking water treatment process in 2019, lead levels began to decline at a steeper rate and fell into compliance last year. The lower lead testing results show that this commonly used treatment method is effective. We recognize there is no safe level of lead and are working towards our goal of replacing all lead service lines by 2026.
Since implementing our Community Lead Response in 2016, we have removed 8,319 public lead service lines and 5,391 private lead service lines at no direct cost to ratepayers. Now that lead levels comply with state and federal standards, we will continue to remove lead service lines as water main replacement projects take place across our water service area.
Our Community Lead Response has been recognized as one of the most effective across the nation. We used historical records and pipe material data from our Curb Box Inspection Program to identify neighborhoods with a high concentration of lead, as well as community data on areas with large numbers of children under six and women of childbearing age, county blood level data, and income. This approach established an inclusive response that made diverse and lower-income neighborhoods a priority and helped target areas with a higher likelihood of lead pipes.
We remain committed to removing lead from our drinking water system and will continue to remove lead lines, test lead levels at high-risk homes, and use orthophosphate in our water treatment process.