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Peduto cites CNN report to back incorrect lead contamination claim

| Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Jeremy Boren | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto answers a question Tuesday, May 9, 2017, during a mayoral primary forum hosted by WESA-FM and The Incline. Councilwoman Darlene Harris and the Rev. John Welch are challenging Peduto in the Democratic primary.

Mayor Bill Peduto has been relying on a CNN news report to support his claims that the lead content in Pittsburgh's water is "no different than 5,330 other systems" even though the figure does not apply to lead contamination levels.

"If you talk with local experts, they'll tell you that yes, lead in the water is a concern, but the level we have is no different than 5,330 other systems," Peduto said Tuesday during a mayoral primary forum hosted by 90.5 WESA-FM and The Incline at the radio station's studio in the South Side.

A Tribune-Review story published May 2 revealed that Pittsburgh is the second-largest water system in the U.S. that exceeds a key federal threshold for lead contamination.

The Trib reported that there are about 1,200 water systems in the country that tested above the threshold in 2016 samples, according to an Environmental Protection Agency database, not 5,330.

Of those, only eight serve more than 100,000 people, including the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority — the second-largest system that exceeds the threshold for lead of 15 parts per billion, after Portland, Ore.

Peduto responded on Twitter to a comment about the discrepancy with a link to a June 2016 CNN article reporting that in 2015, more than 5,330 water systems failed to properly test water for lead, report contamination to residents or failed to treat water properly to prevent lead contamination.

The article does not deal with the amount of lead in water systems.

Asked whether Peduto would continue to cite the 5,300 figure, Peduto spokeswoman Katie O'Malley said the mayor was unavailable Wednesday.

The other systems that had at least 10 percent of samples exceeding the threshold, from largest to smallest, include Providence, R.I., Passaic Valley, N.J., Tulatin Valley, Ore., York, Pa., Jackson, Miss., and Green Bay, Wis.

York, which serves 194,000 and tested at 16 ppb from June to September, was added recently to the database after the Trib's original story.

PWSA's result was 22 ppb from January to June 2016 and 18 ppb from July to December. Portland's water from July to December tested at 17 ppb. New PWSA test results are set to come out in June.

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

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