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Pennsylvania DEP to cite PWSA over failure to replace lead lines by Theresa Clift, Tribune-Review staff writer

Pennsylvania DEP to cite PWSA over failure to replace lead lines

Theresa Clift | Wednesday, July 19, 2017, 5:39 a.m.

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is preparing to cite Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority for failing to replace the required amount of lead service lines by the June 30 deadline, PWSA Interim Director Robert Weimar told the Tribune-Review.

PWSA replaced 415 lead lines between July 2016 and June 30, 2017 — less than a third of the 1,341 it was required to replace.

Weimar said the details of the citation have not yet been set.

“We haven’t been told their final number, but I know they’ve got calculations underway for what the fine might be,” Weimar said. “I’m hoping we can negotiate the level of any civil penalty.”

Weimar did not know roughly how much money the citation might be but said it would not affect PWSA’s operations.

“We don’t anticipate any penalties to inhibit our programs in any way,” Weimar said.

DEP declined comment for this story.

Negotiations between PWSA and DEP attorneys started after PWSA officials realized the authority would not meet the requirement by the deadline. Weimar hopes those talks to wrap up by Aug. 1, he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires all water systems in the country that exceed the federal lead threshold to undergo a series of changes, including line replacements.

When PWSA first exceeded the federal lead threshold in June 2016, EPA issued the requirement to replace at least 7 percent of all authority lead lines by June 30, 2017.

First, the authority had to figure out how many lines were made of lead and where they were located.

Of PWSA’s 71,000 water service lines, about 25 percent are made of lead, the authority found.

Seven percent of all lead lines would be 1,341 lines, which is the goal PWSA submitted to DEP, said Will Pickering, PWSA spokesman.

In May, PWSA launched a partial replacement program — replacing the publicly owned portion but leaving the privately owned portion.

The authority stopped that program in early June after follow-up tests showed partial replacements actually increased lead contamination in some cases.

Since then, the authority has been replacing only the publicly owned portions in cases where the private side is not made of lead, slowing the replacement pace.

PWSA says it cannot replace the private sides of lead lines because of a 2011 Commonwealth Court ruling that said the authority can’t provide a service that duplicates or interferes with one offered by a private business.

State Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, said he believes PWSA already has the authority to replace the private side, but he introduced legislation to make it extra clear.

PWSA officials expected that bill to become law by now, Weimar said. It cleared the Senate but awaits a vote on the House floor.

“Any support PWSA can get to allow us to proceed with lead service line replacement is of value to us,” Weimar said. “There are differences of opinion on how we’ll proceed, but it awaits the lawyers.”

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, tclift@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tclift.

 

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