Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Trying to Expedite Lead Water Line Upgrades

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Trying to Expedite Lead Water Line Upgrades

Article excerpt

The very public political spat between Pittsburgh's mayor and Allegheny County's controller over removal of lead water service lines in the city turns out to be less about if it should be done and who should pay for it, and more about how fast.

To recap: County Controller Chelsa Wagner said Tuesday that Mayor Bill Peduto was slow to push the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to remove lead service lines that carry water to 20 to 25 percent of the authority's 83,000 customers and find the money to pay for that work.

Wednesday, Kevin Acklin, the mayor's chief of staff, said the administration was on it. And had been for some time.

According to Mr. Acklin, Mr. Peduto has been working with state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, on legislation that will amend the Municipal Authorities Act to allow the spending of public money on private water lines.

"Those changes will put us on good legal footing," Mr. Acklin said. "And given the need and desire of this administration to remove these lead lines, we think these changes can proceed as emergency legislation."

Service lines, which run from the water mains under city streets into residences and businesses, are publicly owned by the PWSA under the streets, but privately owned under residential and business properties.

Mr. Peduto, in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, said the amendments to state law are necessary because the PWSA is now only permitted to work on publicly owned lines, leaving homeowners and small businesses on their own to remove private lead service lines and fix broken sewer laterals.

"These changes in state law will create valuable tools to assist PWSA's efforts to eliminate public and private lead service lines from Pittsburgh's water system and continue to address our crumbling sewer infrastructure," Mr. Peduto said.

Mr. Acklin said many of the privately owned lead service lines are located in areas that are "disadvantaged," and where residents can't afford to replace the lines themselves, even with low-interest loans. …

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