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Pennsylvania Senate passes plan to help fund lead-line replacements

| Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 2:36 p.m.
This lead water pipe inside a house connects the home’s plumbing to the main water pipes.
Thomas Eshenbaugh | For the Tribune-Review
This lead water pipe inside a house connects the home’s plumbing to the main water pipes.

A proposal that would allow municipalities to tap in to state funds to replace privately owned lead lines cleared the Pennsylvania Senate in a 50-0 vote Wednesday.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, heads to the House.

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

Pittsburgh City Council is considering legislation that would direct Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to replace such lead lines, with homeowner approval, in areas where it is replacing publicly owned lines.

The bill would let the city tap in to state funds to help pay for the full replacements — an undertaking that Mayor Bill Peduto's chief of staff Kevin Acklin says would cost roughly $410 million.

In a related move, the Senate also passed a bill Wednesday that makes it clear that water systems like PWSA are allowed to replace the privately owned portions of water and sewer lines.

When Fontana introduced it, PWSA officials were claiming that a state law and a 2011 Commonwealth Court ruling prohibited it from replacing the private side of the lead lines.

Brittany Mekilo, Fontana's chief of staff, said she expected the bills to be assigned to a House committee early next week.

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

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