(Pittsburgh) February 21, 2018 Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, who has for more than a year called for the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) to launch an aggressive program of lead water line replacements to eliminate the serious health risk of lead water contamination, today issued a Taxpayer Alert citing deficiencies in current line replacement plans.
While PWSA has announced a $44 million budget to replace 2,100 lead lines in 2018, or $21,000 per line, other water systems nationally and in Pennsylvania have replaced lines at a fraction of this cost.
For instance, in Flint, Mich., lead line replacements have cost about $5,000 per line. In the PWSA’s own backyard, Pennsylvania American Water has said it expects line replacements–including those in the areas of the City of Pittsburgh it serves–to cost about $3,500 apiece.
The report cites further examples, including some that would amount to replacing virtually all of Pittsburgh’s lead lines at the same cost PWSA plans to replace just one-tenth of its lead lines this year.
“As other cities have demonstrated, a well-planned, efficient process of finding and replacing lead service lines can result in more families protected, at a lower cost, and in less time. The need for line replacements has been known to Pittsburgh and PWSA officials since at least mid-2016, yet it has not been acted upon with urgency or vision. As this process finally begins in earnest, we must work to assure that it is a smart one that best protects all those at risk while using our public funds as efficiently as possible,” Wagner writes in the report.
Wagner’s advocacy toward a solution to Pittsburgh’s nearly four-year lead water crisis has included two audits of the Allegheny County Health Department, several recommendations from which were subsequently adopted by the County’s Lead Task Force, and drawing attention to the health risks of partial lead line replacements being conducted by the PWSA, which were then halted.