(Pittsburgh) March 28, 2017 Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner called for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto to put a halt to partial lead service line replacements that can increase lead contamination in household water, and to initiate an emergency plan to fully replace the lines, calling such measures “absolutely necessary to ensure residents’ safety.”
While the PWSA is in the process of conducting 1,500 partial line replacements by July, Wagner said the Authority has not laid out a public plan disclosing in which areas they are to be conducted.
Studies have shown that partial replacements, which replace the part of the line owned by the PWSA but not the privately owned portion connecting to the home, can double existing lead contamination by disturbing lead in the remaining portion of the pipe.
“In the words of Dr. Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech, who investigated Flint, ‘Frankly, doing nothing is preferable to doing a half-pipe replacement,’” Wagner said.
She said the City must instead put in place an emergency plan to replace the entire lead line at low or no cost to homeowners, such as those carried out in cities around the country–including Philadelphia and York in Pennsylvania.
“The failure thus far of our public leadership to address the crisis of lead in Pittsburgh’s water is not a question of ‘can’t’, but rather a question of ‘won’t,’” Wagner said. “The fact that cities around the nation and here in Pennsylvania have done what is required to protect their residents makes clear that what is lacking here is political will.”
Wagner said unilateral action by the Mayor in recent days to extend the contract of the PWSA’s interim executive director and to appoint a commission and advisory team to steer the Authority toward privatization make it “abundantly clear who runs the show at PWSA.”
“This crisis calls for leadership, accountability, and transparency,” Wagner said. “We vote for elected officials, not commissions.”
Wagner said that the City should also begin making public its mapping of the location of lead lines, which it has said is in progress but on which no updates have been provided.
She called continuing discussion of a privatization of the PWSA a “distraction” from the critical public health issue of lead in water.
“Selling off our public resource of our water is not a solution to the real problems within the PWSA. Rather, as nearly every water privatization around the country has shown, it is a recipe for higher prices and less accountability,” Wagner said.
“Our efforts must be completely refocused on solving the problem that is putting the health of tens of thousands of our residents at risk every day.”