ShareThis Page

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority ends water shutoffs in winter

Bob Bauder
| Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, 4:42 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority board of directors unanimously approved a moratorium Thursday on water shutoffs this winter for needy residential customers who have not paid their bills.

The moratorium from Dec. 1 through March 31 is restricted to income eligible residents who do not exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty level. The cap would be $61,500 for a family of four. PWSA supplies water to about 300,000 people in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region.

PWSA spokesman Will Pickering said an outside company will be hired to screen customers facing a water shut off and advise PWSA when a customer qualifies for the moratorium.

“This will help our customers make it through the winter without facing shut offs,” said PWSA Director Deb Gross, who also serves on Pittsburgh City Council.

Gross recommended the moratorium, noting that other utilities have similar policies for winter and that many residents of Pittsburgh use water to heat their homes.

Board members also directed PWSA staff to develop a customer assistance program designed to help residents pay water bills. Gross called the moratorium a first step.

“What our goal is is to be easier for our customers to work with so they can stay current (on bills),” she said.

In unrelated business, board members approved emergency work orders at two major reservoirs and a pumping station to meet deadlines set by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

An emergency work order permits PWSA to suspend competitive bidding procedures, but Pickering said the authority has not yet determined if that will be necessary. DEP issued an administrative order that forces PWSA to step up repairs on the Lanpher and Highland 1 reservoirs and the Bruecken pumping station, which feeds water to Pittsburgh's East End. Under the DEP order, PWSA must submit permit applications for the work by Nov. 30.

PWSA is repairing a torn cover on Lanpher in Shaler that caused a boil water advisory this summer after DEP determined that bird droppings could have contaminated the water. The authority plans to purchase new covers and liners for the 133 million gallon reservoir at a cost of about $11 million.

Highland 1 Reservoir in Highland Park, Pittsburgh's only open reservoir, has been off line since February because of fluctuating chlorine levels that dipped below acceptable standards. PWSA is planning to install an ultraviolet system for treating water that is estimated to cost $2 million.

DEP also ordered PWSA to install a new pumping system and electrical backup at the Bruecken station and sensors for testing water pressure at low pressure points in its water system.

Pickering didn't have an immediate cost estimate for those jobs.

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.