Could Pittsburgh’s lead replacement program serve as model for the country?

Local, state and federal leaders gathered in Pittsburgh this month to highlight the progress of Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s (PWSA) lead line replacement program and applaud plans for removing lead lines from every daycare in Pittsburgh. Since PWSA established its Community Lead Response program in 2016, it has replaced 8,883 public lead service lines and 5,846 private lead service lines, representing a total of more than 52 miles of lead lines removed from Pittsburgh’s water system. As part of PWSA’s Priority Lead Service Line Replacement Project in 2022, no-cost lead service line replacement will be available for all daycare facilities in PWSA’s service area. 

“We are so impressed by Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s leadership in lead service line removal and believe this program can truly be a model for the rest of the country,” says Mami Hara, US Water Alliance CEO. “Critical to PWSA’s success has been the significant financial support of state and federal partners. Many communities want to step up and replace their lead lines, but they need that financial support to be able to do so. We’re thrilled that billions of dollars were included in last year’s federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation to address lead, so more communities ensure safe drinking water for all.” 

“PWSA is proud to continue our work replacing lead service lines at no cost for some of our most at-risk populations,” says Will Pickering, PWSA CEO. “With each lead line we replace, we are reducing potential exposure to lead for those we serve. As stewards of our vital water system and infrastructure, we’re committed to protecting the health and safety of our communities by providing all of our customers with safe, high-quality drinking water.”  

In addition to addressing daycares this year, PWSA is also replacing eight miles of aging water mains and hundreds of lead service lines across its water service area as part of its annual water infrastructure upgrades. PWSA is also replacing lead lines in priority neighborhoods, thanks to $17 million from the American Rescue Plan.  

Funding through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) and other state and federal sources has been key to PWSA’s success. The Priority Lead Service Line Replacement Project is made possible by a $4.7 million dollar funding package from PENNVEST. Since 2018, PWSA has applied for and received over $152 million in PENNVEST funding, of which $19 million has been grants that do not have to be repaid.  

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