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PWSA asking residents to sign up for free lead water line replacement |

PWSA asking residents to sign up for free lead water line replacement

Bob Bauder
Contractors in 2017 dig up water lines to homes in Perry North to determine if they are made of lead. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority began adding a chemical to tap water in February that is expected to greatly reduce lead contamination.

Pittsburgh residents who have lead water lines and meet income guidelines can have their pipes replaced for free through a Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority program administered by the Dollar Energy Fund.

PWSA has $1.8 million set aside for the program and must spend the money before November 2021 under an agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP in 2017 fined the authority $2.4 million after it failed to report a change in water treatment chemicals to state regulators. DEP and PWSA negotiated a settlement whereby $1.8 million was returned to the city for lead line replacements.

The authority so far has replaced 18 water lines through the program and estimates the $1.8 million can pay for a total of 200 lines. A family of four earning no more $61,500 per year would qualify. Officials said they are certain eligible customers have failed to apply.

“I don’t know what the reason for that would be,” said Paul Leger, who chairs the PWSA board of directors. “It’s not complicated. If you hit the income line, you just go to Dollar Energy Fund and you’re in.”

To apply, residents can call PWSA at (866) 762-2348. Representatives at Dollar Energy will verify income eligibility and PWSA will schedule a time for replacement after confirming the home has a lead water line.

PWSA spokesman Will Pickering noted that PWSA sewer customers who receive their water through the Pennsylvania American Water Co. are not eligible.

The program is unrelated to PWSA’s $40 million lead program, in which it will replace a homeowner’s private line for free while replacing lead lines in the street that are owned by the authority, Pickering said.

PWSA has struggled since 2016 to reduce lead levels in water that exceeded a federal threshold of 15 parts per billion. The most recent test results released in January indicated lead levels of 20 ppb from July to December.

The authority is addressing the problem by replacing all lead waterlines in its service area, which includes about 300,000 people in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, and by adding the anti-corrosion chemical orthophosphate to water.

Since 2016, PWSA has replaced more than 2,825 waterlines. It plans to replace up to 3,400 lead lead lines this year.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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