ALIQUIPPA, Pa. (KDKA) — An Aliquippa man fears the worst after learning he’s drinking water with unsafe levels of lead.
Gerald Schill reached out to KDKA News for answers after receiving a letter in the mail from the Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa.
“We’re going in and getting blood work drawn, me and my wife, getting tested for heavy metals,” said Schill.
KDKA investigator Meghan Schiller learned he’s one of nearly 70 homeowners with lead service lines in need of repair.
In an ideal world, a home would have zero parts per billion of lead in the water. The EPA says it’s time to take action at 15 ppb.
Gerald Schill’s water tested at 48.4 ppb. That is a lead concentration more than nine times the level of concern at 5 ppb and three times the EPA’s recommended action level at 15 ppb.
Schill’s letter goes on to say: “This sample represents the worst-case result that can be expected from your home.”
“We googled it and looked up everything about lead exposure and lead poisoning, drinking water with lead, and none of it’s good,” Schill said.
Schill wants to know: is he the only one?
“We sampled 106 homes. About 60 percent of those came back with a lead service, and now they’re being on a list to be replaced,” said Matt Mottes, board member of the Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa.
Mottes and MWAA general manager Robert Bible told KDKA’s Meghan Schiller that this is an expensive problem. So far, they pinpointed more than 70 homes with lead service lines, but only 29 homeowners agreed to the water testing.
“That’s not going to cut it,” said Bible. “That’s only a very small sample size of the overall system. So we’re going to go for a second round here.”
Bible believes when it comes to the levels of lead, the issue lies in the plumbing and not the water itself. He said the MWAA will begin replacing the lead service lines, including the one at Schill’s home, immediately.
“The reason why we sent the letters was transparency,” said Mottes. “Here at the water authority, we’re trying to be as transparent as possible about all the work that we want to do.”
Of the 29 homes that agreed to water testing, four had lead levels that exceeded the 15 ppb. Bible told KDKA that the average of the results from the 29 homes also exceeded the EPA’s action level, which is why they will conduct additional testing.
In December, the DEP filed a violation against the MWAA regarding its testing procedures for lead and copper.
“In the past, because of the participation issue, we’d go to people we know,” said Bible. “Whether they had lead or not, we went to people we know, store owners, just residents that we knew we could count on them.”
The DEP now demands the MWAA follow an approved plan to sample for lead and copper at 60 homes every six months until the lead levels drop. Schill hopes this happens fast.
“What else can I do? I’m not going to move. I own two houses here on this street. I’m close to retirement. Yes, I’d love to live in Florida,” he said.
But Schill lives here and wants to feel safe in his own home.
“I’m very angry,” said Schill. “You can’t see underneath the mask, but I’m pretty ticked that you pay for water, you pay for a service, I should be getting good stuff.”
After KDKA’s interview with the MWAA, the service line replacement work kicked off at the four homes with the highest lead levels.
Mottes said those lead service lines will be replaced by the end of next week, and then the crews will start chipping away at the remainder of the list.
In the coming months, the MWAA told KDKA it plans to test 100-plus homes to see if they have lead service lines that will also need to be replaced.