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Wagner and Peduto clash over lead water line replacement

Theresa Clift
| Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 4:57 p.m.
Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner holds a news conference Tuesday morning to urge Mayor Bill Peduto to require PWSA to replace all lead lines.
Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner holds a news conference Tuesday morning to urge Mayor Bill Peduto to require PWSA to replace all lead lines.
Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner
JAMES KNOX | trib total media
Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner

An Allegheny County elected official's proposal to replace privately owned lead water lines in Pittsburgh met swift resistance Tuesday from Mayor Bill Peduto's office, which said state law makes the plan unworkable.

Because Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority water samples have been exceeding an EPA threshold of 15 parts per billion since July, it's required by the state to replace 7 percent of its roughly 20,000 residential lead service lines annually.

The authority replaces only the portion of the lines it owns, however, not the sections owned by homeowners.

County Controller Chelsa Wagner urged Peduto to require PWSA to replace all lead lines in the city, including the private portions. Wagner estimates that would cost $25 million and says financing could come from city and county funds.

PWSA is not allowed to replace the privately owned portions of the lines, city and PWSA officials say, because of the state Municipal Authorities Act.

Wagner noted that Philadelphia is replacing its lead lines, but Philadelphia, unlike Pittsburgh, is a first-class city and therefore not covered under the Municipal Authorities Act, a news release from Peduto's office said.

Wagner also named York in Pennsylvania and East Lansing, Mich., as cities that are replacing all lead lines.

York is replacing all lead service lines, but the water authority there is private, not public like PWSA. The East Lansing area's water authority replaced all 12,150 of its residential lead lines from 2004 to 2016, but in that city, no portion of the lines is owned by the homeowner, a spokeswoman said.

Pittsburgh is planning to supply every home, school and public building with water filters and has put together a panel of water experts to restructure the PWSA.

Wagner says those efforts are not enough.

“The city's actions and inactions are making the problem much worse,” she said.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669 or tclift@tribweb.com.

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