PWSA is proud to be the recipient of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual AQUARIUS Recognition, awarded to us for our work replacing lead lines through our Community Lead Response. The recognition, made possible through a nomination from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST), recognizes our commitment, at a national level, to protecting public health and drinking water safety.
Our Community Lead Response, created in 2016, has concentrated on providing community resources and education on the dangers of lead in drinking water, optimizing the water treatment process to reduce corrosion of lead lines, and replacing all residential public and private lead lines in the system.
This award recognizes the replacement of 3,400 public and 2,800 private lead lines through funds received from the EPA's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), the $49 billion federal-state partnership dedicated to protecting America's public health.
Through PWSA's long-standing partnership with PENNVEST, low interest loans and grant money has made it possible for PWSA to more aggressively fund lead service line replacements year over year. Low interest loans obtained through the state revolving fund model offer lower interest rates, which save customers millions of dollars over the lifetime of the loan as compared to funding through municipal bonds, while the use of grants provides funding that does not need to be repaid.
To receive this esteemed recognition, PENNVEST’s nomination highlighted lead service line replacements funded by the DWSRF and described how our program:
- Addressed the most serious risk to human health
- Is necessary to ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act
- Assisted systems most in need, on a per household basis, according to state-determined affordability criteria
The Community Lead Response met three of the five tenants of excellence that are part of this award:
- System Partnerships: PWSA has worked directly with thousands of homeowners across Pittsburgh to replace lead lines on private property and has relied on the support and expertise of the Community Lead Response Advisory Committee to develop an equitable response to lead in drinking water.
- Environmental and Public Health Protection: PWSA worked tirelessly since 2016 to reduce lead levels, replace a mandated number of lead lines annually, and bring the water system back into state and federal compliance.
- Innovative Financing: By pursuing low-interest PENNVEST loans and all available grant dollars, PWSA can provide free lead line replacements to customers. The work is implemented using an affordability analysis that ensures neighborhoods with the highest risk and greatest financial need receive priority.
Our dedicated Community Lead Response team, including our Lead Help Desk Team, liaisons, and construction managers, work every day to educate customers on the benefits of lead line removal and make them aware of all potential impacts of construction. PWSA is proud to have replaced over 10,000 public and over 7,000 private lead lines, putting it over halfway to the goal of replacing all lead in the system.