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)
including a $2.4 million civil penalty assessment for violations related
to lead level exceedances, partial lead service line replacements, and
unauthorized changes to its water treatment. Up to $1.8 million of the
agreed penalty may go towards community improvements, which could
include replacing customers’ lead service lines.
“DEP is committed to ensuring that consumers have drinking water that
conforms to all state and federal standards, but we’ve also placed a
priority on long-term improvements to PWSA’s system and assistance to
homeowners,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “PWSA’s repeated
violations of state and federal drinking water regulations have eroded
public trust, and with this agreement and penalty, we want to start
restoring that faith.”
This COA directs PWSA to take specific actions, provides deadlines for
those actions, and assesses penalties. With respect to any future
partial lead service line replacements, the COA requires PWSA to take
extra measures to notify residents and conduct sampling if it performs a
partial line replacement.
Through this COA, DEP ordered and PWSA agreed to:
• Notify every owner, resident, and tenant and conduct follow-up
testing of the structure when a partial lead line replacement occurs.
Provide additional advanced notice prior to the start of any
non-emergency partial line replacements and provide water filters and
replacement cartridges for at least six months;
• Submit an interim report to DEP by December 31, 2017 and a final
report by March 31, 2018 on the results of the corrosion control
• Undertake continuous efforts to confirm the composition of service
lines throughout its water system with updated reports to DEP over a
period of several years;
• Replace at least 1,341 lead service lines by June 30, 2018 and
conduct additional line replacements annually until PWSA’s water meets
the requirement for lead; and
• Report to DEP information on public notices, public education, and compliance every three months.
The agreement includes a $2.4 million civil penalty assessment, of which
$1.8 million may go toward a community environmental project. PWSA is
required to submit a detailed proposal for a project, administered by a
third party, to provide grant money or low interest loans to low income
homeowners for the replacement of private lead lines. Any funds that
have not been used for this purpose in three years must be paid to DEP
as a civil penalty assessment.
“Typically, a community environmental project accounts for not more than
half of a penalty assessment, but we felt that this situation warranted
a much more robust effort to assist homeowners, upgrade the system, and
restore public trust in the water that flows from their faucets,” said
DEP Acting Southwest Regional Director Ron Schwartz.
PWSA’s system provides drinking water to approximately 520,000 people in
the Pittsburgh area including 250,000 residential customers.
In addition to disinfecting water for public consumption, water systems
like PWSA must use a specific formula of chemicals designed and approved
for their individual system to control corrosion in the water pipes to
provide optimal protection against the leaching of lead and copper into
the water. DEP requires studies and permits prior to the use or
alteration of any treatment chemicals by a public water supplier.
In April 2014, PWSA substantially modified its corrosion control
treatment by substituting caustic soda for the permitted control, soda
ash, without notifying DEP or obtaining the required permit amendments.
In 2016, PWSA announced that it had switched back to soda ash for
On April 25, 2016, DEP issued an Administrative Order directing PWSA to
investigate lead levels within its system, evaluate the impacts from the
change in corrosion control treatment, provide information on its
actions to consumers, conduct a feasibility study for optimization of
corrosion control treatment, and submit a final report to DEP.
Additionally, PWSA exceeded the regulatory action level for lead during
its required monitoring in 2016. These exceedances required PWSA to
conduct a materials evaluation to determine the number of lead service
lines in the system and to replace a certain percentage of those lines
within a year. PWSA did not submit the proper materials evaluation of
the system and instead submitted a “lead service line inventory
estimate” of 19,152 lead lines out of the system’s approximately 80,000
active service lines. Based on PWSA’s estimate, the Authority was
required to replace at least 1,341 lead service lines by June 30, 2017,
but PWSA only replaced 415 lead service lines, or approximately 31
percent of what was required.
In 2016 and 2017, when PWSA performed non-emergency partial lead service
line replacements, it failed to provide 45 days notice for 60
residences, and failed to collect water samples within 72 hours of
partial line replacement for 149 residences. Partial line replacements
can temporarily increase lead levels in the water, and PWSA will be
required to take extensive measures to protect the public whenever PWSA
conducts a partial line replacement rather than a full line replacement.
PWSA will continue to offer free lead test kits to its customers. DEP
reminds consumers of the following ways to reduce lead exposure in
• Flush taps by running cold water for at least one minute prior to drinking or using for cooking
• Use cold water for drinking, cooking, and preparing food or baby formula.
• Use a water filter that is NSF-certified to remove lead.
• Contact PWSA if you plan to replace your side of the lead service line for coordination of replacement of the PWSA portion.
For more information, including past enforcement actions, visit DEP’s Southwest Region community page here.
MEDIA CONTACT: Lauren Fraley, 412-442-4203