Pittsburgh, PA – Recently several reports have validated the turnaround at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA). From historically low lead levels and improved water quality, to permanent assistance programs for financially eligible customers - these results combined tell a story of marked improvement from just five years ago and demonstrates that PWSA is fulfilling its mission to protect public health through the delivery of safe, reliable water services.
“PWSA has significantly improved as a utility over the past few years, and as a result, the drinking water and service we provide to our customers has improved,” said Will Pickering, PWSA’s CEO. “We are proud of our track record of accessibility and transparency as an organization, and the strides we’ve taken to improve water quality while significantly increasing our customer assistance for low-income households,” he said. “We appreciate that other organizations, including the University of Pittsburgh Water Collaboratory and Women for a Healthy Environment, are noticing our hard work, and we hope our customers are noticing it too.”
In July of this year, the University of Pittsburgh Water Collaboratory and Women for a Healthy Environment released a report, Measuring Up: Grading drinking water quality, affordability, and transparency practices in Allegheny County Water Systems. PWSA received high marks across the board and was noted as a leader in providing financial assistance to low-income households. In all the Water Quality categories, PWSA received the highest mark of “Best Practice” available. Those Water Quality categories noted that PWSA is employing best practices across our Lead Service Line Replacement program and that complies with drinking water regulations more broadly.
With approximately 9 out of 10 respondents to our customer satisfaction survey noting that they feel it is important that PWSA protects public health and keeps them informed about drinking water quality, we recognize that these issues are important to our customers and therefore matter greatly to us.
“Working in close collaboration with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority these past several years to bring lead levels to historic lows, the best practice recognition for water quality reflects PWSA’s transformation as an organization,” said Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, Executive Director of Women for a Healthy Environment. “PWSA’s drinking water customers can have every confidence that their water provider is meeting its core value of stewardship and is delivering on their mission to protect public health.”
"PWSA has worked hard since 2016 to mitigate Pittsburgh’s lead crisis, and the best practice recognition for water quality is well deserved, “said Megan Guy, Outreach Coordinator and Data Analyst with the University of Pittsburgh Water Collaboratory. “We commend PWSA for receiving high grades across the board and setting an example with their approach to addressing lead service lines within their service area. We hope that this report will be used as a roadmap by all systems, including PWSA, to continue to advance essential transparency, affordability, and water quality best practices across our region."
Notably, PWSA also released its annual Water Quality Report this summer. The 2022 report found that PWSA meets and exceeds all regulatory requirements for safe, clean drinking water. Each year, PWSA performs over 100,000 tests for microbial contaminants, inorganic contaminants, pesticides and herbicides, organic chemical contaminants, and radioactive contaminants. These contaminants can be found in nature or from human activity. Everything that was tested fell inside the EPA’s acceptable range and there were no violations.
After years of concern about elevated lead levels in drinking water, PWSA reported the lowest recorded levels of lead in decades. The latest round of testing found 3.4 parts per billion, well below the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion and the lowest number recorded in more than 20 years. To date, PWSA has replaced more than 10,300 lead service lines in the system and recognizes the effectiveness of adding orthophosphate to the treatment process in 2019 as an important turning point in significantly reducing lead levels.
With lead levels firmly in compliance, PWSA has turned its attention to the Water Reliability Plan. This series of once-in-a-generation projects strengthens and adds redundancy to large components of our water pumping and distribution system. With the first projects completed and the second phase under construction, PWSA continues to transform the water systems our customers rely on. These projects, when complete, will provide customers with reliable, high-quality water service for current and future generations of customers.
This turnaround at PWSA comes with a renewed focus on public health and recognizes our responsibility to serve as mindful stewards of an essential public resource. PWSA customers can have every confidence that the path we are on today will secure safe, high-quality water services for years to come. For more information about drinking water quality and the investments we are making today, please visit pgh2o.com/your-water.