PITTSBURGH, PA – Mayor William Peduto announced September 1 the formation of a task force to study the operations, financial condition and organizational structure of the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, and to recommend solutions to improve its oversight of stormwater management, lead levels, and other critical issues.
The work will be aided by the incoming interim director of the authority, Bernard Lindstrom, who is retiring this month from the U.S. Army. Mr. Lindstrom has served as CEO/Commander and District Engineer for the Pittsburgh District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since 2013.
Mr. Lindstrom replaces acting director David Donahoe, whose six-month appointment ended August 31. (A press release regarding Mr. Lindstrom’s hiring is available here.)
With the appointment of the interim director by the PWSA board, Mayor Peduto is launching a task force to investigate the authority’s structure and operations, with a special emphasis on customer service, infrastructure management and water safety. The task force will evaluate options for restructuring and modernizing the authority; study ongoing issues including the PWSA’s handling of lead levels, billing and customer service; identify immediate solutions for flood control and critical infrastructure; and initiate a strategic plan for the future of the City’s water and sewer assets. Such assets are owned by the City and leased to the PWSA.
The formation of the task force comes as the City, PWSA, Allegheny County and ALCOSAN are drawing closer to a final amended consent decree agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice on plans to address wet weather sewer discharges into the region’s rivers and streams. The agreement is expected to include both green and gray options for building out the region’s sewer infrastructure, and engineers contracted by the PWSA are close to finishing a citywide assessment of opportunities to address stormwater management through green infrastructure and other engineered solutions.
“We are at an important turning point for the Pittsburgh region and for its water, which is both a great resource and a tremendous challenge. We need to make sure the City’s water and sewer authority is organized and structured in the best way possible to address these issues, which will impact water quality and public safety for decades,” Mayor Peduto said.
The task force will be chaired by the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin. Other members will include PWSA Board Chairman Alex Thomson, city Finance Director Paul Leger, and independent experts to be named in finance, law, business and engineering professions.
“Similar to some City water lines that date back to the late 1800s, the structure and operations of the PWSA need to be evaluated and modernized. Now more than ever Pittsburgh needs to adopt best practices in water and sewer services, and the Mayor has charged this task force to help us get there,” Acklin said.
The Peduto Administration is also requesting that City Controller Michael Lamb complete a performance and financial audit of the authority to aid the task force in its work.