Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority Interim Executive Director Robert Weimar met with Hill District residents recently and laid out the strategy for addressing the dangerously-high lead levels in some city neighborhoods.
While many know that the city has begun giving pitcher-type filters to residents who have lead service lines to their homes as a stop-gap remedy until those lines—public and private—can be replaced, Weimar also told residents the authority is currently testing a new, phosphate-based chemical “elixir” that will form a barrier between existing pipes and the water they carry that will reduce lead levels to near zero.
This will allow for the population to have safe water while the lines are replaced at about 7 percent per year—because that’s all the authority can afford.
“We’re testing chemicals, with the Department of Environmental Protection, that will reduce lead to single-digit levels,” he said at the May 17 meeting at the Hill House Association. “The study is being done under state review. The chemicals are similar to elixirs we already use and do not have an impact to humans. The same ones are being used in D.C. and other cities for that same purpose, to minimize lead in the water supply.”
When asked about the authority compensating building owners for the cost of having to replace their service lines if the city does its lines, Weimar said the URA has a loan program and that the board is looking at perhaps doing something similar.
“Of course, the cost will vary substantially from one homeowner to the next,” he said. “Some may have monumental, if you will, front yards, and the question of how much it will cost has to be taken into account. But, we’d like to think there is some level of compensation that would be the basic level allowed and provided.”