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PWSA considers helping delinquent customers before cutting off water

Bob Bauder
| Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, 4:09 p.m.
The Pittsburgh skyline is mirrored in an unusually calm Monongahela River on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh skyline is mirrored in an unusually calm Monongahela River on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.

Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority officials are considering an assistance program that would help customers pay delinquent water and sewer bills.

Until the program is up and running, the authority is weighing whether to put a moratorium on its practice of shutting off service to customers who don't pay.

Board members on Thursday created a subcommittee that will examine a program similar to Alcosan's Clean Water Assistance Fund that started this year. Alcosan provides income-eligible customers with a $30 credit every quarter. For example, a household of four with an annual income of less than $36,450 a year would be eligible under Alcosan's program. For a household of one, the threshold is $17,820 a year.

PWSA board members Deb Gross, a Pittsburgh City Council member, and Margaret Lanier will chair the subcommittee.

"There's a lot of billing issues that must be addressed, and also we have our seniors that I think are important…," said Lanier, who is Pittsburgh's treasurer. "I look forward to working on that committee and with others to address these issues."

The board acted on a request from members of Our Water Campaign, an advocacy group that has lobbied for PWSA to address lead problems and lower rates. Members attending a board meeting Thursday said poor residents, including seniors, have a hard time paying bills and suffer when their water is shut off for non-payment.

Aly Shaw, an Our Water Campaign coordinator, said the organization had hoped the board would implement the program, but praised members for considering the request. "This is only a first step," she said. "We know the work is still ahead, but we're happy PWSA is open to listening to our concerns, and taking these kinds of actions and listening to rate payers."

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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