Councilwoman: Pittsburgh households with young kids should receive lead filters
February 28, 2017 5:33 PM
Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deborah Gross talks with the media concerning a Penn Environment Research & Policy Center report that confirmed cases of lead-laced water in Pennsylvania schools Tuesday at a news conference in the City-County Building. State Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, listens in the background.
The report on school drinking water.
By Adam Smeltz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Local officials should offer lead-filtering water pitchers — at no charge — to some 25,000 Pittsburgh households with children under the age of 6, a Pittsburgh City Council member said Tuesday.
“What we should do today is protect our most vulnerable citizens, and those are our kids,” Councilwoman Deborah Gross said in a Downtown news conference.
Estimating the endeavor might cost about $500,000, Ms. Gross said she will encourage council, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and other agencies and leaders to help finance the effort. She wants to see a fundraising campaign take shape in the next month, with money in place by the summer, she said.
Mayor Bill Peduto’s office supports the push, said Kevin Acklin, his chief of staff. Ms. Gross also serves on the PWSA board.
The authority estimates that 20 percent to 25 percent of 85,000 PWSA service connections contain lead, which is tied to brain damage and other ailments. State environmental authorities ordered last summer that PWSA begin to inventory and replace its lead service lines after tests found elevated levels of the metal in some homes.
Identifying which properties have the lead service connections could take a couple of years.
“We must do everything we can do to reduce the public’s exposure to lead,” said state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, who joined the news conference. He is co-sponsoring legislation that would require annual lead testing in schools and publication of the results.
In an analysis released Tuesday, Pennsylvania received an “F” for what critics called policy shortfalls in preventing lead in school drinking water. The PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center issued the rating, and Ms. Gross said she would like to see extra fundraising for lead filters in Pittsburgh Public Schools.
The school board is open to discussing that idea, said Moira Kaleida, the board’s second vice president. Each school already has at least one or two water fountains with lead filtration, board President Regina B. Holley said.
Meanwhile, PWSA is exploring how it might assist underprivileged customers to secure in-home lead filters, board Chairman Alex Thomson has said. Under its state order, PWSA must replace at least 7 percent of its lead service lines every year.
The work must continue until compliance tests show a sustained reduction in lead levels.
Planned changes to the water additives that control pipe corrosion should foster that decline, according to PWSA.
Adam Smeltz: 412-263-2625, firstname.lastname@example.org, @asmeltz.
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