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The Heinz Family Foundation has announced the winners of this year’s Heinz Awards, which honor people who are breaking barriers in their fields and making a global impact.

Teens Earn And Learn While Educating Their Neighbors About Lead Exposure

Aug 17, 2017
Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

It’s a hot, sunny day in August, and high school students Mckayla Dixon, Anesa Reed, and Keith Jamison are working their summer jobs. The three teenagers are pounding the pavement, walking up and down hills, with clipboards in hand, hoping to talk with residents in Pittsburgh’s Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood about their exposure to lead.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The environmental engineer who worked to expose the Flint lead crisis in 2014 said Pittsburgh’s drinking water lead levels are higher than the Michigan city, but he’s encouraged by downward trends.

Katie Meyer / WITF

Pennsylvania gets a failing grade for its efforts to protect children from high levels of lead in the water at their schools, according to a report released two weeks ago from Public Interest Research Groups, a national federation of left-leaning, independent nonprofits.

It advises—among other things—that schools install water filters as soon as possible while working on longer-term solutions.

The residents of Flint, Mich., received some welcome news this week: Researchers released the results of a new round of water tests, showing lead levels in that city's water system falling just below the Environmental Protection Agency action level.

Too many water samples above that level is a red flag for utilities, a sign that they may have a broader lead problem.

Virginia Tech researcher Marc Edwards, who leads the team documenting Flint's water problems, called the new results the "beginning of the end," a turning point in the city's saga with corrosive water.

On Sunday, the city of Flint, Mich., will no longer be under a federal state of emergency. A new report suggests that lead levels in the city's water are dropping, though researchers still recommend caution because of the health dangers posed by even small amounts of lead.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The city's water authority got a slap on the wrist Monday from the Wolf administration two years after making a critical change to the chemicals added to Pittsburgh drinking water.

State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley said Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority should have gotten approval from the state before switching from soda ash to caustic soda for corrosion control.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

  For Pennsylvania lawmakers, the problem of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan has served as a rallying cry, a teachable moment and, now, a political cudgel.

This month, House and Senate members were determined not to waste Michigan’s crisis, invoking it to propel their own efforts to minimize lead exposure from old house paint and water pipes. But as some touted legislation, one House Republican criticized the governor’s office for not springing into action in the same way.

Carlos Osorio / AP Images

When investigative journalist Curt Guyette was hired by the Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), he never expected to be breaking one of the biggest stories of 2015. Guyette, who is speaking at Point Park University tomorrow, told Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer that the Flint water crisis story was a collaborative mission by many local organizations to find and reveal truth.

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As environmental news has garnered more attention in recent years, Point Park University will now have the opportunity to obtain environmental journalism degrees. 

The new degree, available to undergraduate and graduate students, will be offered in the fall of 2016.

Students will be able to focus on print or broadcast and will pair journalism classes with classes in environmental sciences, like ecology and biology, according to School of Communications Chair Thom Baggerman.

Ideas Worth Stealing: Replace All Lead Pipes

Feb 11, 2016
Paul Sancya / AP

Ideas Worth Stealing: Every week, Keystone Crossroads looks to cities across the world for lessons in urbanism and municipal governance that could benefit Pennsylvania. No city does it all right, and we hope these examples from metropolises near and far inspire and encourage cities here to think outside the box. 

Lead-Tainted Water Has A Long History In The U.S.

Jan 28, 2016
Carlos Osorio / AP Photo

The municipal water crisis in Flint, Mich., has brought new attention to the dangers of lead in drinking water.

When the city starting using the Flint River as its source for municipal water in 2014, the water was so corrosive, it caused lead to leach out of pipes and fixtures. 

How Safe Is Pittsburgh's Drinking Water?

Jan 22, 2016
Paul Sancya / AP Images

After thousands of children were exposed to lead due to poor water quality in Flint, Michigan, many across the nation are wondering if their own water is safe. Could it happen in Pittsburgh? Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer sat down with James Good, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, to see what the agency is doing to remain compliant.