PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Thousands of people in the City of Pittsburgh may be drinking water with elevated levels of lead and not even know it.
The problem is lead service lines that run from the street into many older homes. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is under orders to replace them.
“Having lead in water is unacceptable. I think every member of Council and any mayor would agree with that statement, and we’re going to have to find the funds between the city, the state and PWSA to pay for it,” said City Councilman Dan Gilman.
But, already, the city is falling short of state Department of Environmental Protection orders to replace seven percent of those lines any annually.
While the PWSA fully expects to be fined by the DEP, Councilman Gilman says better that than to continue to replacing those lines improperly.
“I am not going to go out there just to meet a DEP regulation and harm my citizens. I will continue to fully support this city not doing partial line replacements no matter what the sanctions may be,” Councilman Gilman said.
Right now, the PWSA can only replace the public portion of the line, but is prohibited by law from going onto private property to complete the job. That means you the property owner must hire a plumber to replace your section of the line at your own cost.
Evidence shows that so-called partial replacement can increase the danger of lead contamination. So, City Council is in the process of approving a bill that would give the city the legal ability to do the whole job.
“If someone wants to sue us, as a body, for doing the right thing, to take care of lead in the city, then I welcome that lawsuit,” said Kevin Acklin, the mayor’s chief-of-staff.
The city says once it has that power it will pursue a more aggressive schedule to replace the lines.
“I don’t know exact time line. It’s going to take years and it’s going to take a lot of money. But we have no choice,” Councilman Gilman says.
PWSA says it will pay the fine and establish a new schedule to replace those lines as quickly as possible; only now, they say they’ll do it the right way.