PWSA lead service line replacement program reaches early milestone in goal of 3,700 lines
May 28, 2019
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) has completed more than 700 public and 600 private lead service line replacements so far in 2019 and is on track to replace over 3,700 more public lines between now and June 2020.
The 2019 lead line replacement program began in mid-March in Perry North, Morningside, Homewood, and South Side Slopes. The program continues to minimize partial lead line replacements by offering no-cost private lead line replacements for customers where PWSA replaces the public lead line.
Last year, PWSA replaced a little over 2,000 lead lines, or the equivalent of 7.5 miles of lead pipe. This year’s program is more than twice the size with three contractors providing a total of 14 crews spread across seven work zones. The 2019 program is PWSA’s largest and most ambitious replacement project to date. Funding comes from a combination of low-interest loans and grants from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) totaling $49 million.
“We’re very encouraged with the pace of the first few months of this priority project. With each lead line replaced, we’re renewing infrastructure and also protecting public health,” said PWSA Executive Director Robert Weimar. “We’re also pleased that this year’s program is benefiting from the advice and guidance of our expert advisory committee.”
This year, work zones were prioritized and selected based on input from PWSA’s Community Lead Response Advisory Committee which is made up of public health, policy, regulatory, and engineering experts. The committee considered factors such as blood lead levels, likelihood of lead service lines, the prevalence of young children, and household income to determine work zone areas.
Each replacement requires extensive, one-on-one coordination with property owners. In order to replace a lead line on private property, PWSA must receive written approval from the property owner. The Lead Help Desk, a dedicated team who manage customer communication and outreach related to lead, has collected over 5,000 signed agreements from property owners in the 2019 replacement program work zones.
Lead Help Desk staff work evenings and weekends to contact customers and walk them through the lead line replacement process. These PWSA teams canvassed thousands of sites to meet with residents, collect agreements, and explain the benefits of the program. Staff also attended a total of 17 community meetings since November 2018 to educate customers about the project and answer questions in-person.
As part of the settlement of an enforcement action by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), PWSA has established a free lead line replacement program available to homeowners and tenants who meet certain income requirements (see table on right).
If there is also a publicly-owned lead line serving the property, PWSA will replace it at no additional cost. Once approved, customers meeting the income requirements can have their lead line replaced in a matter of one or two months. Those interested can call Dollar Energy Fund at 866-762-2348 to apply.