South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

PWSA continues suspension of water shutoffs

Prioritizes customer assistance for lower income customers

 

October 27, 2020



The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority's Board of Directors has adopted a resolution to continue the suspension of water shutoffs through March 31, 2021.

This extension follows the timeline of PWSA's Winter Shutoff Moratorium and applies to all residential customers regardless of income.

The board's decision follows an October 8 order issued by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), which allows water disconnections to resume on November 9 for all residential and non-residential customers. The state order continues to protect residential customers that are at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and requires utilities to offer payment plans for non-residential customers.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, PWSA has taken steps to protect customers and make it easier for customers to access and enroll in its Customer Assistance Programs. In addition to suspending water shutoffs, they have also waived the recertification requirements for the Bill Discount Program and the sincere effort payment typically required for those enrolled in the Hardship Grant Program. These changes are currently in effect through the end of the year.

The recent rate settlement proposal submitted to the PUC on September 30 includes several enhancements to assistance programs. If approved by the PUC, the discount available through the Bill Discount Program would increase from 75% on fixed charges to 100% and some eligible customers could receive a 20% reduction on water usage charges. The threshold for our Winter Shutoff Moratorium would increase from 250% of the FPL to 300%. Under PWSA's expanded customer assistance outreach program, they hope to increase enrollment in assistance programs and help customers reduce their bills. If approved by the PUC, these changes will be effective on or after January 14, 2021.

"Extending the shutoff moratorium for all of our residential customers until next spring is the responsible action in light of continued uncertainty from the pandemic," stated Will Pickering, PWSA Executive Director. "Families that are struggling to stay current on their bills are encouraged to contact us. We have simplified enrollment for our assistance programs and are offering flexible payment arrangements to help reduce unpaid balances. We hope that our customers will take advantage of these programs during this difficult time."

For more information about our Customer Assistance Programs, visit http://www.pgh2o.com/CAP and to enroll, contact Dollar Energy Fund at (866) 762-2348. For more information about the recent rate settlement, visit http://www.pgh2o.com/ourwaterfuture.

City Announces Blue Recycling Bins Coming This Fall

Mayor William Peduto has announced plans to distribute 32-gallon blue curbside recycling bins to city residents as part of the Bureau of Environmental Services' first phase bin distribution.

The first phase will cover the neighborhoods of Garfield, Highland Park, and East Liberty. Distribution of blue curbside recycling bins is scheduled to begin Nov. 2 and will cover 5,500 homes over the span of 10 days and is based on the bureau's Monday central collection route.

Each bin will be scanned and linked to a service location and delivered with an information packet describing how to properly use the bin. In addition, each blue curbside recycling bin will be manufactured in Pennsylvania by Rehrig Pacific Company with at least 5% recycled plastic as part of the Government Demand Champions Program. This program exists to stimulate and drive domestic markets for recyclable plastics and thereby drives sustainable plastic recycling.

"Pittsburgh is adapting to a stronger culture of waste reduction and material reuse. Our strategic plan for purchasing and deploying blue recycling bins over three years will make that culture change more accessible and equitable for all," Mayor Peduto said.

Prior to receiving their new recycling bin, residents will receive a notification via U.S. Mail letting them know to anticipate their new blue curbside recycling container, along with information on what can and cannot be placed in the bin. The 32-gallon blue curbside recycling bins will consolidate recyclables into one container, making it more convenient for recyclers and the recycling crews who empty them.

After receiving their new curbside recycling bins, it is important for residents to remember to put their recyclables in their bins loose and not bagged. This will support the city's efforts to reduce contamination (when non-recyclables make it into recycling bins), save on costs, and provide high-value recyclables to the circular economy.

The current $500,000 investment through the city's 2020 budget is matched by a grant from The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit that works to transform community recycling programs to increase access to recycling and improve the quality of recyclables in the recycling stream. The Recycling Partnership will provide technical assistance, education, and outreach resources for Pittsburgh.

"The Partnership is excited to respond to Mayor Peduto's plan to help Pittsburgh transition away from a bag-based recycling program into a bin-based one by offering to match Mayor Peduto's proposed investment dollar for dollar," said Chris Coady, director of Community Programs for The Recycling Partnership.

"By partnering with the City of Pittsburgh, The Recycling Partnership will boost the City's ability to move toward a more efficient and effective program, allowing residents to recycle more, better. A move away from blue bags is a perfect complement to the City's 'Better Recycling, Better Burgh' effort to encourage citizens to collect recycling in bins and know what is and isn't recyclable in those bins."

The three-year bin distribution details are posted on https://pittsburghpa.gov/blue-bin-info/. Interested residents can learn more information through that link or by contacting 311 by phone at 412-255-2621, Twitter at @PGH311, or pittsburghpa.gov/311

This initiative will expand on Pennsylvania Resources Council's initiative that has provided Pittsburgh residents with more than 10,000 blue bins and recycling education since 2015. Residents are encouraged to continue using their current bin from the nonprofit or one they already purchased for recycling overflow and storage as long as it's under 35 gallons.

The mayor is proposing an additional $500,000 in capital funding to continue buying and distributing bins citywide for residents who receive service from the Bureau of Environmental Services. The 2021 funding would be subject to approval by Pittsburgh City Council.

As a reminder the following recyclables are accepted for single stream curbside collection by the city:

• Cardboard, flattened and place into your bin or another box if needed

• Glass bottles jugs and jars, caps and lids removed

• Aluminum and steel cans

• Mixed paper such as junk mail, newspapers, old books and cereal boxes

• Empty plastic bottles, jugs and jars, caps and lids removed

To learn more about to how improve recycling in the community, visit https://pittsburghpa.gov/dpw/residential-recycling to watch the city's Recycling Guide.

 

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