PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – PWSA work crews are slicing up Coltart Street in Oakland.

The crews are tunneling underground to unearth and replace some 30 lead services suspected of delivering contaminated water to homes.

As water passes through those lines, it tends to become tainted with the lead itself, so the state Department of Environmental Protection has ordered the PWSA to undertake the task of replacing them all with copper.

It’s dirty, labor-intensive work but in the past three years, PWSA has managed to replace 6,000 of the city’s estimated 12,000 lead service lines.

When PWSA Board Chairman Paul Leger talked to KDKA this summer, he said he estimates they’re doing work on about 1,000 homes a year.

“We’re going to keep our foot on the gas pedal and replace as many as we can over the next few years and get them all out of our system,” said Will Pickering, PWSA’s deputy executive director.

Since the DEP ordered the fix, the authority is well ahead of its replacement schedule.

On Friday, the state confirmed some additional good news.

Since the authority began adding an anti-corrosive to the water supply, lead levels in homes with lead service lines are dropping.

Orthophosphate is a food-grade additive that coats and seals the lead lines and reduces lead in the water.

Last year, lead levels violated safe drinking water standards at 17 parts per billion in the impacted homes.

Now, they’re in compliance at 10 parts per billion.

Andy Sheehan: Ten parts per billion is better, but there are those who say that no level of lead is acceptable?
Will Pickering: And that’s absolutely correct. There’s no safe level of lead. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to remove the source of this lead, which are these lead service lines.