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Fontana lead line replacement bills move forward in Harrisburg

| Monday, June 19, 2017, 4:27 p.m.
Office of Pennsylvania Sen. Wayne Fontana
Pennsylvania Sen. Wayne Fontana

A package of bills state Sen. Wayne Fontana introduced to try to address Pittsburgh's lead crisis moved forward Monday in Harrisburg.

Two Senate committees voted unanimously Monday to approve the three bills, said Brittany Mekilo, Fontana's policy director.

SB 639 would amend the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority Act to allow municipalities to use state PennVEST funds to repair or replace the privately owned portions of sewer and water lines.

SB 656 makes clear that water systems like PWSA are indeed allowed to replace the privately owned portions of water and sewer lines.

When Fontana, D-Brookline, introduced the bills, PWSA officials were saying the authority could replace only the publicly-owned portions of lead lines because of a 2011 Commonwealth Court ruling, and began a partial replacement program. Earlier this month, PWSA suspended its partial lead line replacment program after lead was found in water samples taken from homes where lines had been partially replaced.

Pittsburgh City Council is set to consider legislation that would direct PWSA to replace the entirety of the lead lines, with homeowner approval, in cases when it is already replacing the publicly owned side.

PWSA supports that measure.

The third bill, SB 334, is the same as SB 656, but applies to sewer lines, Mekilo said.

The bills should be going to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, Mekilo said.

PWSA is the second-largest water system in the country exceeding a federal lead threshold. It has been exceeding the threshold for nearly a year, with new test results due out this month.

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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