Pittsburgh, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) have entered into a Consent Order and Agreement (COA) that will result in infrastructure upgrades to the PWSA distribution system.
The agreement requires PWSA to rehabilitate or replace two rising mains to the Highland 2 Reservoir, replace the cover and liner of the Highland 2 Reservoir, construct a new rising main from the Aspinwall Pump Station to the Lanpher Reservoir, and rehabilitate or replace the Aspinwall and Breucken pump stations.
These infrastructure projects are necessary to provide system redundancy in preparation for PWSA to replace its 108-year-old clearwell used to store treated water before it’s introduced into PWSA’s distribution system. Replacement of the clearwell is a priority project included under the COA. PWSA’s clearwell does not meet current design standards.
PWSA must also investigate, report to DEP, and eliminate valves, blow-offs, and other similar locations within chambers, pits, or manholes in PWSA’s distribution system that connect directly or indirectly to a storm drain or sanitary sewer. Such connections create the potential for contamination.
“When DEP began its investigation into PWSA three and a half years ago, it became clear that the system’s problems went beyond operational and treatment failures. Perhaps our greatest challenge was triaging the most necessary system upgrades to ensure Pittsburgh’s drinking water meets or exceeds all state and federal standards,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
In October 2017, DEP issued an administrative order to PWSA directing the authority to undertake several immediate capital improvements to bolster system reliability and to provide DEP with a detailed schedule for longer term capital improvement projects, which included the “Clearwell Emergency Response Project” and “Washout Disconnection Program.” Much of the original infrastructure that must be replaced as mandated by this COA predates DEP permitting.
In November 2017, DEP and PWSA entered into a COA
to address PWSA’s unauthorized changes to corrosion control treatment, lead level exceedances and failure to notify residents of partial lead service line replacements. The agreement established a schedule for the study, permitting, construction, and implementation of optimal corrosion control treatment for PWSA’s water system. PWSA began adding orthophosphate to its system in April 2019.
Once the authority had new corrosion control treatment in place, DEP looked to establish a schedule for the implementation of other priority projects that are part of the larger picture of responsible operation, maintenance and improvement of PWSA’s aging water system.
“PWSA came to the table, working with us to prioritize the upgrades most critical to the protection of public health and improvement of infrastructure, to ensure the continuous provision of safe and potable water to its users,” said DEP Southwest Regional Director Ron Schwartz.
In contrast to the 2017 COA, DEP did not assess a civil penalty within the current COA, acknowledging the significant investment necessary for PWSA to upgrade multiple aspects of its system. The agreement does include stipulated civil penalties, however, should PWSA fail to meet its obligations.
PWSA’s system provides drinking water to approximately 520,000 people in the Pittsburgh area, including 250,000 residential customers.
DEP regulates more than 10,000 public water systems, including bottled, vended, retail and bulk water hauling systems, and implements both the federal and state Safe Drinking Water Acts and associated regulations by overseeing and enforcing the proper treatment and distribution of drinking water and managing water resources. Following implementation of Act 65 of 2017 in April 2018, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) assumed additional oversight of PWSA. PUC’s oversight primarily deals with ratemaking, tariff approval, compliance plans, infrastructure improvements, consumer protections and other issues related to the implementation of Act 65.