Last month, a federal judge accepted the plea agreement PWSA negotiated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice related to Clean Water Act violations from 2017 and prior. This final step in the legal process means that we’re owning up to our past failures and moving forward as a utility that is focused on serving our customers and protecting the environment.
PWSA fully cooperated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation and has addressed the violations by making physical changes to the Aspinwall water treatment plant.
The physical changes at the plant are only a small part of the changes we’re making at PWSA. We’ve developed an environmental compliance program and put in place enhanced ethics training for all employees. These programs will bring about a cultural shift at PWSA that is already underway and being embraced by employees at all levels of the organization.
We’ve added an Environmental Compliance Director to our team who is stationed at the Aspinwall Water Treatment Plant. Frank Sidari, featured in this month’s employee spotlight, was hired in March 2021 to fill this role. Frank reports directly to me and is focused on environmental compliance – his expertise, supported by our executive leaders, will provide the guidance and direction that is needed to implement these changes and ensure they are successful.
With Frank’s leadership, we are developing a robust environmental compliance program. It requires an annual, independent audit that will be reviewed by the EPA. The first audit is currently underway and when finished will be posted to our website and made publicly available. We are expanding our Environmental Compliance department, developing a comprehensive compliance and ethics training for all staff, and providing new ways for employees to report compliance issues anonymously and without fear of retribution.
This new deliberate focus on environmental compliance and ethics begins an era where we can emphasize the importance of regulatory compliance for the environment and water quality, communicate expectations to employees, and continue to rebuild trust with our customers.
We are equipped with the resources, the dedicated leadership, and the fortitude to ensure that we move beyond past mistakes and forge a culture that prioritizes ethical behavior with a focus on regulatory compliance. This culture change will help protect the environment and ensure we continue to provide high quality drinking water. Our employees are dedicated to serving our customers, and we are giving them the resources and support to ensure that we are doing everything possible to avoid the mistakes of the past.
As these actions become more engrained and we can repeatedly demonstrate how we are meeting and exceeding regulatory compliance, then we will recapture the trust that is essential for providing the water services Pittsburgh expects and deserves.