After decades without one, Pittsburgh sees second flush-and-boil water advisory in seven months | Pittsburgh City Paper

After decades without one, Pittsburgh sees second flush-and-boil water advisory in seven months

According to Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority spokesperson Will Pickering, to the best of the authority's knowledge, prior to this year, PWSA has never issued a flush-and-boil advisory.

But this week, the authority issued its second flush-and-boil advisory in just seven months. At a press conference yesterday, PWSA Interim Executive Director Robert Weimar said the latest advisory was issued after an inspection of the cover over one of the system's reservoir raised concerns.

"Our efforts have been first and foremost to stabilize the system," Weimar said. "We've begun the process of developing a repair strategy."

The reservoir was taken offline at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 28, and water from it will not flow into the water system until it is repaired. To fill the gap, PWSA has expedited repairs to other pumping stations, and these repairs will be done this weekend.

"We're confident that we will provide as confident a water system as we had previously," Weimar said. "We're confident that we can make our way through this and provide the water supply and the water quality that the public demands."

Repairs will begin next week to the east cell of the reservoir, and the west cell will be taken down and rebuilt. The entire facility was up for reconstruction in 2018, so funds for the project were already included in the capital budget. All of the work is anticipated to take nine months.

"We want to apologize for the problem that this may have caused for some of our customers," Weimar said. "It's clear that we're dealing with a system that is like a very old car, and at any particular point in time, a part might fail."

This week's development is just the latest in a slew of troubles PWSA has experienced in recent years as a result of the system's ailing infrastructure.

"This is a situation we're going to face time and time again," Mayor Bill Peduto at yesterday's press conference. "We have an antiquated system that in certain areas is beyond the failure point. We lack duplicity in backup systems because we never invested in them, and when we see a problem area occur, it will come with an impact."

Chief among PWSA's problems has been the high lead levels detected in city water. Some believe a 2014 change in PWSA's corrosion-control chemicals contributed to the city's high lead levels. And this month Pittsburgh City Paper reported on an email wherein PWSA appears to take responsibility for that  switch.

Now experts say eliminating the city's high lead levels means eliminating the city's lead service lines. Estimates indicate replacing the city's  lines could cost anywhere between $50 million and $410 million.

"What's taken decades to get to isn't going to be solved overnight. It's going to take at least a decade to solve the problems within PWSA, and it is going to cost billions of dollars. This is just the reality of what we face," Peduto said. "What we will do is we will take ownership. We will take on the responsibility to fix this problem so that  a generation past the next generation won't have to deal with this situation. We'll leave as a legacy  that we'll have clean water from 2030 to 2080."

There are 10 water distribution centers throughout northern parts of the city, as well as in Millvale and Reserve Township, to serve the 18,000 homes impacted by the precautionary advisory. Those unable to boil water or access a distribution center can call the city's 311 line to have water delivered to them. Public-safety officers have delivered water to more than a dozen residents and area schools.

The advisory is expected to be lifted as early as Thu., Aug. 31 or Fri., Sept. 1.

Water Distribution Locations

Millvale Community Center, 416 Lincoln Ave., Millvale, PA 15209

Reserve Twp.
Reserve VFD, 33 Lonsdale St., Pittsburgh, PA 15212

City of Pittsburgh
Pressley High Rise, 601 Pressley St., Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Pennsylvania Bidwell, 1014 Sheffield St., Pittsburgh, PA 15214
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 32, 900 Spring Garden Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15212
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 33, 3284 Central Ave., Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 34, 3914 Perrysville Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15214
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 35, 1519 Orchlee St., Pittsburgh PA
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 37, 1124 W. North Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15233
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 38, 198 Essen St., Pittsburgh, PA