(Pittsburgh) February 1, 2019 “The charges filed by Attorney General Josh Shapiro today against the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority are a long-awaited acknowledgement of the negligence and delay that marked the initial response to Pittsburgh’s lead crisis, which continues for many families even to this day.
Beginning in March 2017, I called for the Mayor and PWSA to stop partial lead line replacements that risked making lead contamination in individual homes worse, and pointed out that the legally required notification and follow-up testing to protect residents was not being carried out. I discussed this information with Attorney General Shapiro in a meeting on May 8, 2017. Also in May 2017, I communicated to the Department of Environmental Protection that these requirements were not being followed. On August 30, 2017, I met with DEP officials, who levied fines against PWSA weeks later, and later recommended charges to the Attorney General.
The charges filed today fly in the face of statements made by Mayor Peduto at the time stating categorically that ‘the amount of children being poisoned by lead in our water is zero.’ On the contrary, the risk to local children and families was very real, as the serious criminal charges filed today show. In the midst of this negligence, the mayor announced a contract extension for PWSA’s then-interim executive director, which the PWSA board declined to approve.
I have always said that the situations in Pittsburgh and Flint were more alike than different. PWSA lead water levels, which have been comparable to or higher than Flint throughout this crisis and remain so today, were caused by negligence and exacerbated by gross delay in acknowledging and addressing them.
While progress has happened far too slowly, we have recently seen extremely encouraging steps taken by PWSA to protect Pittsburgh families from the threat of lead. The fact that this mission remains unfinished, and the extremely serious ramifications of the lack of attention to and accountability for the precious resource of our water, means that we must be as vigilant as ever. While some wish to transfer the provision of water to a private entity that would completely lack transparency and public accountability, it is clear that our elected leaders must be more hands-on when it comes to the safety of our families, not less. The Mayor, City Council, and other public officials and agencies providing oversight must build on the recent progress that has been made and finally deliver to the people of Pittsburgh the public, accountable water provider they expect and deserve.
The charges filed today illustrate clearly the serious damage that can occur when no one is watching. I thank Attorney General Shapiro for his attention to and action on this vital matter.”