July 2020 will be one for the PWSA record books. For the first time since June 2016, our drinking water complies with state and federal regulations for lead in water. Our multi-year effort to improve our drinking water treatment to protect against corrosion from lead pipes has proven to become more effective over time and our levels are comparable to other cities across the country. We’re also continuing to address lead in water by aggressively removing the remaining lead service lines from our system.
Earlier this month, we announced that we surpassed the required number of lead line replacements by 3,316 public service lines. Even though our improved lead test results mean that we will no longer be required to replace lead service lines each year, we will continue toward our goal of replacing all of them by 2026.
Despite initial missteps, we now have a Community Lead Response program that is a model for cities across the country. Our progress is a product of collaboration with state and local leaders who amended law to allow for private lead line replacements and helped us tap state financial resources to support this enormous undertaking. We also benefited from the direction provided by a board of directors who appropriately prioritized addressing lead in water and the leadership of our former Executive Director Bob Weimar. Most importantly, we couldn’t have made this progress without the support from our customers who have seen significant rate increases in the past few years.
We are well on our way to fully tackling lead in water, but there is still much work to do. We will continue to remove lead lines in conjunction with water main replacements across the city. While this work takes place, we will also turn our attention to several once-in-a-generation infrastructure improvements that will strengthen our water distribution system.
These projects include rehabilitating water storage facilities and pump stations, updating electrical and backup power systems, and repairing or replacing various large-diameter water mains throughout the system. Over the next few years, we will invest approximately $312 million to add needed redundancy to our water infrastructure and provide customers with more reliable and secure water services.
In 2020, PWSA is a different organization than it was four years ago. We have recruited a qualified team dedicated to providing safe and reliable services. We are focused on meeting or exceeding regulatory standards and with improvements to customer service, communications, and better use of technology, we are more responsive to the needs of customers.
I want to thank you for your patience as we worked to close this unfortunate chapter in PWSA’s history. We now must work on rebuilding your trust. This too will take time, but I hope that these recent accomplishments show that we are doing everything we can to prioritize your health, safety, and improve the delivery of reliable water services.
“We are well on our way to fully tackling lead in water, but there is still much work to do. We will continue to remove lead lines in conjunction with water main replacements across the city.” - PWSA Executive Director, Will Pickering