Tribune-Review – Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is following through on a settlement it reached in July to resolve violations of Pennsylvania’s Safe Drinking Water Act.
As part of the settlement, PWSA agreed to donate $250,000 to Women for a Healthy Environment, a nonprofit that will use the money to offer free and reduced cost testing to city residents.
During pipe replacements in 2016 and 2017, PWSA unnecessarily exposed people to increased lead levels in their drinking and didn’t warn customers of the temporary spike in lead in their water, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.
The utility faced 161 criminal counts which it resolved in a July 2020 agreement where PWSA agreed to hire an independent monitor and make $500,000 in donations to organizations that promote safety for those exposed to lead in old water pipes.
According to Women for a Healthy Environment, 85% of homes in the city were built pre-1978, when lead was banned from paint.
“Once a toddler has lead poisoning, there are no effective treatments for the permanent cognitive and behavioral damage — however lead poisoning can be easily prevented by getting your home tested,” said Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, the group’s executive director. “We’re pleased to offer this service to the city at no or little cost to families that could be at risk for lead poisoning, and grateful to be working with PWSA and the Attorney General’s office to expand access to testing to families worried about the risks of lead.”
Since 2018, Allegheny County has required children to be universally tested for lead exposure during their first year of life, then a second time around 2 years old.
The home lead risk assessments will be conducted by a certified inspector using CDC-safety protocols. The inspector will collect samples of dust, interior and exterior paint, bare soil, and, in some cases, tap water.
“We’re going to try and pilot it and see what interest there is in the community,” Naccarati-Chapkis said. “The inspectors will look at all occupied spaces in the home, and use X-ray fluorescence to scan through layers of paint on walls and windowsills and all the places there might be friction.”
Following the testing, a report will recommend whether a home needs simpler, interim controls or if full lead abatement is necessary. For households needing abatement, the county’s economic development office has a “Safe and Healthy Homes” program that can help.
With the test running between $600 and $900, Naccarati-Chapkis said, there is the potential to test more than 100 homes in the city.