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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A new round of tests show lead levels in drinking water have gone up, but the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) says that’s not a cause for alarm.

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The health threat from lead in water is serious, which is why the DEP and EPA are so adamant to get all lead levels to zero.

So the latest numbers from the PWSA, showing an upward trend in the worst 10 percent of tests done in December, while not surprising to the PWSA, are also not alarming.

“So while the 90th percentile amount has increased from the results six months ago, if you look at the results in total, they are hovering in the same ranges and they are proportionally the same,” PWSA spokesperson Will Pickering said.

Pickering points out the numbers are naturally skewed because they test the highest risk homes.

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“Right now, we’re estimating that a little under 30 percent of homes in Pittsburgh still have at least part of that lead service lines down in place, and that’s what we’re working aggressively to replace,” Pickering said.

Replacing all those lead lines could take ten years, but the PWSA is going to try an end around the lead pipe replacement using something called orthophosphate, which it will ask the DEP if it can add to the treatment plant water.

“We delivered preliminary results from a study to them the first of this year, and the results from this study have shown that the addition of orthophosphate can dramatically reduce lead levels,” Pickering said.

Until then, if you are concerned about possible lead in your water, here are some precautions to :

  • Run the cold water for a minute if it hasn’t been used in a while.
  • Use only cold water for cooking and baby formula.
  • Consider your own in-home alternative treatment.
  • Contact the PWSA to determine if you have lead pipes in the first place.
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The orthophosphate idea goes to the DEP on Tuesday. If the PWSA can get a thumbs up on that, they’ll go ahead and start that treatment, but that does not mean they’ll stop the lead line replacement program, which will continue until all the lines are gone.