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PWSA suspends partial water line replacement program

| Friday, June 2, 2017, 5:51 p.m.
Workers from PWSA work to repair a 12-inch Water Main on the 1300 block of Pennsylvania in Manchester, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Workers from PWSA work to repair a 12-inch Water Main on the 1300 block of Pennsylvania in Manchester, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority announced Friday afternoon it is temporarily suspending its partial lead line replacement program out of an “abundance of caution” after potentially dangerous amounts of lead were found in water samples taken from places that received partial line replacements.

“The PWSA has followed requirements to replace lead lines, but the matter is threatening to become dangerous to our residents,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement that accompanied PWSA's announcement. “We need to halt this replacement program until we have an understanding with the PADEP (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) on how to properly and safely address this problem.”

Citing the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, PWSA said it is required to replace 7 percent of lead service lines in its water system each year. The authority began making the replacements on May 3 and has completed the work at 81 locations.

Of those, 32 connected to a non-lead private line, meaning the entire line is essentially free of lead; but the remaining 49 resulted in the partial replacement of a lead line.

Of the 49, eight homeowners submitted water quality samples for further testing and four exceeded “the allowable lead action limit,” according to PWSA.

“We know what the problems are, and we are looking to work with every partner to fix them. We have to solve them safely, however,” Peduto said in his statement.

Partial lead line replacements can cause more lead to leech into the water, the EPA has told the Tribune-Review .

The EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advocated in favor of full line replacements, which negate the risk of disturbing particles of lead that can find their way into drinking water.

“PWSA has ceased any further partial lead line replacements until our procedures can effectively be verified, validated and modified to mitigate any possible public health risk,” the authority said. “To ensure continued compliance with USEPA regulations, PWSA will continue removing public lead service lines which establish an effective full non-lead service line, but has ceased partial lead line replacements.”

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