Pittsburgh, PA – The most recent round of testing completed by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) reflects lead levels well below the state and federal action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb). This is PWSA’s seventh consecutive round of testing. One hundred ten water samples were taken at high-risk homes with a known lead service line. The results announced today indicate the continued effectiveness of adding orthophosphate to PWSA’s water treatment process.
With results of 3.58 ppb — remaining historically low for Pittsburgh — customers can have confidence in the effectiveness of our treatment process and trust in our commitment to protecting public health.
“We’re proud that we’ve maintained low lead levels at worst case scenario homes,” said PWSA CEO Will Pickering. “These results continue to demonstrate that we’re protecting all of our customers from the risk of lead in drinking water.”
Even with low lead levels and a highly effective method of corrosion control, PWSA remains committed to removing all lead service lines from our drinking water system. Since 2016, we have replaced over 10,778 public lead service lines and over 7,578 private ones at no direct cost to customers. We are now more than halfway towards our goal of replacing all public lead lines in our service area. Low-interest loans and grants that do not have to be repaid make it possible to expedite this important work and we remain focused on our goal to replace all lead pipes by 2026.
Orthophosphate as Corrosion Control
In April 2019, we began adding orthophosphate to reduce lead levels in drinking water while continuing to replace thousands of lead service lines. Orthophosphate is a food-grade additive that forms a protective layer inside of lead service lines, creating an anti-corrosive barrier between the lead pipes and the water flowing through them. This treatment method protects our community from risks of lead while we continue to invest millions per year in replacement efforts.
Adding orthophosphate to the treatment process requires constant monitoring and testing to ensure it is working effectively to protect against lead. Samples are taken from around the system every week, including lead monitoring stations, hydrants, and controlled testing points. Analysts look at lead levels, as well as orthophosphate and pH levels and other markers that influence overall water quality. PWSA plant and field operators, water quality experts, engineers, and data managers constantly review information collected in the field to ensure that PWSA’s drinking water meets all state and federal regulations, and our customers receive reliable, high-quality water. All these efforts are part of PWSA’s commitment to maintain safe, high-quality drinking water.
2023 proved to be another successful year for our various lead-related efforts, which we call the Community Lead Response. Construction crews replaced over 800 lead lines across the system, which requires extensive coordination with customers. Our Lead Help staff was hard at work corresponding with thousands of residents, scheduling in-home coordination, and meeting with residents to discuss replacement methods.
The Community Lead Response program management team has begun to share their years of experience implementing a successful lead remediation with utilities, government agencies, and consultants across the country. With lead service line replacement in the national forefront, sharing our knowledge and lessons learned is a priority.
Our work has not gone unnoticed by federal and industry leaders. This year, PWSA was the recipient of the EPA’s inaugural Aquarius Award and the American Metropolitan Water Agency’s (AMWA) Environmental Justice Award. These recognitions are a reflection of the dedication and commitment to equity that is shared by all members of the Community Lead Response team.
In addition to corrosion control optimization and lead service line replacement, PWSA provides educational tools and other resources for lead in water. PWSA has always offered its water customers free lead test kits, to learn more about water quality in the home. Testing your home’s water is a great first step in protecting you and your family against lead contamination.
Water customers can also check our interactive lead map to see all PWSA data on lead service lines, as well as all replacement work that has taken place since its inception in 2016. We also provide an interactive map of all water, sewer, and stormwater projects at pgh2o.com/projects-maintenance/search-all-projects.
If you have questions about lead in drinking water, or you are interested in learning more about our various programs, contact the PWSA Lead Help Desk at 412-255-8987 or at LeadHelp@pgh2o.com.