PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — People have been focusing on the issue of lead in drinking water since the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
On Monday, the state of Pennsylvania cited the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority over its treatment of lead.
The state accuses the PWSA of making unauthorized changes in its treatment process, issuing an administrative order demanding immediate response.
It got no argument from the authority.
“Getting an administrative order is a serious matter in the water business, and was taking it seriously. We’re accepting it; we’re not appealing it, and we’re going to comply with everything the state has asked,” said PWSA Acting Executive Director David Donahoe.
To treat lead in the water, the PWSA switched from using soda ash two years ago to caustic soda, which was cheaper.
But the authority failed to alert the state Department of Environmental Protection of the change and did not supply regulators with evidence that the caustic soda would be as effective.
Now, the state is demanding PWSA give notice to all of it 300,000 customers of its failure, that it test 100 homes and develop a plan to assure the public of the best possible lead control.
Donahoe said the use of the caustic soda was done under a previous management and that PWSA no longer uses it. But while there was no home testing done at the time, he said there’s no evidence the public consumed high levels of lead.
“Caustic soda is an accepted agent. The state said that today in its report. It’s an accepted agent. There’s no reason to believe it did not work,” said Donahoe. “I think that the public can rely on the fact that the authority, for all of its 32 years of existence, has provided a clean product.”
Even though there is no evidence of contamination, public concern over lead in the drinking water is at an all-time high. PWSA says from here on in, it will be complying with every regulation to ensure that the drinking water is safe.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says the city wasn’t notified of the change and the PWSA has changed its corrosion control methods back to those that were originally permitted by DEP.
In a statement, Mayor Peduto says: “We take the safety and health of our citizens seriously and have been working in collaboration with DEP and PWSA to make sure that our water continues to be among the highest quality and safety.”