State cites PWSA for 'failing to protect' water source, not having permit
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued two violation notices this month to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority for performing construction activities at the Lanpher Reservoir without a permit and allowing concrete debris to fall on the cover, according to a letter dated Tuesday.
The authority says the work did not threaten water quality, and has been stopped for now.
In October, the DEP issued an administrative order requiring PWSA to expedite three water system improvement projects, including constructing a new liner and cover for the treated drinking water reservoir in Shaler.
DEP officials inspected the 133 million-gallon Lanpher Reservoir on Feb. 26, and found construction work ongoing at the west cell wall without a permit, according to a March 7 letter from DEP to PWSA.
A permit was issued Feb. 27, said Lauren Fraley, a DEP spokeswoman.
On March 15 and 16, DEP officials inspected the reservoir again, this time finding construction work happening at the east cell wall without a permit, according to the letter to PWSA dated Tuesday.
Inspectors also found concrete debris was falling on the east cell cover.
Both are violations of state code, the letter says.
“PWSA's construction activities along the East Cell wall caused concrete debris to fall onto the cover,” the letter says. “Because the concrete debris could affect the structural integrity of the cover and cause the cover to tear, PWSA has failed to protect the water source in the reservoir in violation of (state code).”
PWSA has since submitted a permit application for that part of the reservoir and the DEP is reviewing it, Fraley said.
“At no time were any demolition activities performed that could have threatened the water quality in the active east cell of the reservoir,” said Will Pickering, PWSA spokesman.
After the first violation notice, PWSA submitted a construction timeline to DEP, Pickering said. The wall construction was taking place on the portion of the reservoir that was out of service for repairs.
During the second DEP inspection, PWSA contractors were performing stabilization work on the retaining wall for the adjacent Friday Street to repair loose concrete to prevent it from impacting the reservoir, Pickering said.
“Contractors were using a catchment system to prevent debris from falling onto the covered reservoir,” Pickering said. “We're currently in discussions with DEP regarding this notice and work ceased immediately after DEP notified PWSA of their concerns. This work is nearby, but not on the covered reservoir itself.”
DEP has not issued a fine to PWSA for either issue, but could in the future, Fraley said.
A rupture in a 60-inch water main connected to the Lanpher Reservoir nearly cut water service to PWSA customers living in the North Side in February. Water gushed through the break at a rate of 10,000 gallons per minute, but crews were able to make repairs before customers lost service.
The reservoir rehabilitation project includes repairs to the existing wall and removal of the existing cover, liner and geotextile, Pickering said. Once all material is removed, crews will make any necessary repairs before installing the new liner and cover.
The work at the west cell is set to be finished by June 27 and the east cell is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 23, Pickering said.
The total project is roughly $4.4 million, including materials, construction inspection and design, Pickering said.
Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, email@example.com or via Twitter @tclift.