PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Years of mismanagement, a lack of leadership and impaired decision making are some of the findings of an audit of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.
The findings were released by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale Wednesday morning.
“The current structure cannot deal with this problem. It must be changed and it must be reformed. We need some commonsense solutions. We need everyone to work together. We need a city authority, we have a Republican legislature, we have a Democratic governor, we have competing bills in the House and Senate. Everyone needs to put the egos aside and work together on behalf of all the ratepayers of this authority,” DePasquale said.
The audit was ordered after several recent problems with the PWSA, including issues at a reservoir, concerns about chemical test results, high levels of lead and billions of dollars in debt and more. They found the PWSA is in a serious state of disrepair and it’s going to take billions of dollars to fix.
“Everyone — customers, PWSA, even city officials — knows and acknowledges PWSA has extreme financial, management, infrastructure and water quality problems,” DePasquale said. “PWSA customers are tired of hearing how broken everything is and want to start hearing about how the system is going to be fixed.”
Auditors also discovered that there had been more than 3,500 pipe breaks since January 2014. Auditors also found that the PWSA hasn’t been able to bill for roughly 50 percent of the water it produces due to leaky pipes. Additionally, those leaky pipes can’t be found.
DePasquale said he’d like to see a public-private partnership take over the PWSA in order to raise the necessary funds to fix the problems.
But Mayor Bill Peduto has commissioned a Blue Ribbon Commission that is studying the problems and is trying to come up with a solution of its own. That commission is expected to release their results in the coming two weeks.
Mayor Peduto issued the following statement regarding the results of the audit: “I want to thank the Auditor General for this detailed look into the PWSA, which confirms many of the issues that have long concerned me about the authority’s operations, debt and infrastructure. Deep and fundamental changes are necessary to restructure the authority and preserve the city’s water system for generations to come. While the audit expresses concern with city government’s influence on PWSA, it is my duty to protect this valuable city asset and the safe water owed to the people I represent as Mayor. The city owns this water system after all, and when there are problems with it people come to me to look for answers. We will certainly consider some of the other changes General DePasquale has recommended on the city funding and free water the city receives from PWSA, especially if such funds are put back into the authority’s infrastructure needs.”
But regardless, rates will go up substantially and DePasquale says most customers will be okay with that it if the system is made whole.
I believe that most city residents know that and understand it. If they can get a good deal in return, which is clean water and better infrastructure and it’s done in a steady manor, I think most people understand that’s coming.