Pittsburgh, PA – The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is pleased to accept the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies’ (AMWA) Inaugural Environmental Justice and Equity Utility Management Award for establishing the Community Lead Response. This award recognizes member utilities that commit to advancing equity and justice in their communities by using assessment and planning, equity in access and costs, civic involvement in decision-making, and integrative strategies.
PWSA CEO Will Pickering attended the 2023 AMWA Executive Management Conference in San Diego, California to receive the award on behalf of PWSA.
“Lead service lines are an unfortunate byproduct of our past, but our neighbors and loved ones should not have to live with this reality,” said Pickering. “We are proud to have developed the Community Lead Response with no-cost replacements and first-class customer service as the cornerstone of the program.”
PWSA’s Community Lead Response has developed, through policy and management protocols, a multimillion-dollar lead safety and remediation program that ensures the most vulnerable populations are prioritized in our goal of replacing all lead service lines in the system. While implementing optimal corrosion control is crucial to reduce lead levels across the board for all those with a lead line, the only real solution to lead in drinking water is to remove the source – dangerous lead pipes. To do this, PWSA must work with property owners through its water service territory to explain the risks of lead and the impacts of removing lead service lines from homes and our system.
To ensure an equitable program, PWSA had to envision the following policies over the course of the program, which began in 2016. At the time, there were an estimated 16,000-18,000 lead service lines throughout the water service territory to be replaced. While the construction process for lead service line replacement is straightforward, much consideration had to be paid to which lead lines would be replaced first. To answer this question, PWSA developed a prioritization model to make this determination in an equitable and standardized way.
PWSA’s overarching goal was to replace lead lines first in neighborhoods where they posed an exacerbated risk. Research has shown that lead impacts the developing brains of young children and can impact fetuses during gestation. Additionally, placing the financial burden of replacement on homeowners disproportionally impacts low income residents.
To date, PWSA has replaced over 10,500 public and 7,300 private lead service lines, at no direct cost to the customer. To complete these replacements, PWSA has inspected the service line material at over 21,000 locations within its service area, which amounts to approximately 25% of all water connections in the system.
Our works is not done. As we continue towards the goal of replacing all lead lines in the system by 2026, we will continue to aggressively pursue state and federal funding for this work, saving our customers money while we permanently remove lead service lines from all homes in our service area. Ahead of upcoming provisions to the federal lead regulation, the Lead and Copper Rule, PWSA’s Community Lead Response Team has consulted with dozens of water systems, municipalities, and state regulators across North America on best practices for developing a lead program. We are always willing to provide lessons-learned, operating procedures, and communication materials with other utilities who must establish lead remediation programs in the coming years.
"AMWA applauds Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority on winning the association's inaugural Environmental Justice and Equity Utility Management Award," said AMWA CEO Tom Dobbins, CAE. "The authority's comprehensive efforts to replace lead service lines in its community to protect the most vulnerable serve as a guide for its peer utilities, public health officials, regulators, and others. Congratulations on this achievement."
For more information on the Community Lead Response, including an interactive lead inventory map, instructions for identifying a lead service line, and information on our Lead Reimbursement program, visit lead.pgh2o.com.