PWSA approves reimbursement program for private lead line replacements

Water dripping out of faucet

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority board on Friday approved a program to reimburse property owners who replaced their private lead water lines between Feb. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2018.

Property owners who provide a plumber’s invoice and a county health department plumbing permit will be eligible to receive a check for their amount spent, up to $5,500. The maximum, set by the board as part of Friday’s vote, is based on the authority’s average costs for replacing the privately owned parts of lead service lines.

The vote comes less than three weeks after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that PWSA customers were waiting for reimbursement for over a year after a Jan. 26, 2018, board vote to reimburse homeowners.

The new vote clarifies the program and expands the reimbursement window, which previously began July 1, 2016, back to February of that year.

“That’s when we started collecting records of when PWSA replaced lead lines, so that’s the most data we have available for when these reimbursements were legitimate,” said Will Pickering, authority spokesman.

According to Mr. Pickering, the authority expects to be able to process reimbursements in about a month.

“We do have a list of customers who have reached out to us prior to this amount being determined, and we will reach out to them directly and tell them they can now apply for this reimbursement,” said Mr. Pickering.

Reimbursements were accounted for in the 2018 lead line replacement program budget, he added.

Last year, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or Penn­vest, provided nearly $49 million to replace about 2,800 residential lead service connections in 2019, city and state officials said.

Service lines are split into two sections: a publicly owned segment that’s closest to the main, and a privately owned segment that completes the connection into the building. The state money now allows PWSA to replace both segments of lead lines when they contain lead.

That left some property owners who replaced their own segments prior to the influx of state money feeling rankled, given many of them spent thousands of dollars, at the urging of the authority.

“We recognize it took a little bit of time, but we think that ultimately we came up with a good solution,” said Mr. Pickering.

Lead line replacement cost Theresa Healy, of Marshall-Shadeland, around $2,500 in November, 2016, she told the Post-Gazette earlier in May. PWSA was replacing its part of the service line and suggested that she do the same with hers because it was lead. “I have a little girl [now 11] and my own self and a dog, and of course I was going to replace it.”

In response to the news that the board had approved the reimbursement program, Ms. Healy said, “Oh my gosh, that’ll make a big difference. We could go on vacation. I could send my daughter camping. It will help fill in the gaps.”

Ms. Healy had repeatedly reached out to the authority in 2018 and 2019 about getting reimbursed for the money she spent.

Read the full story here.