water

Toxins Turning Up In Dozens Of Public Water Systems

Aug 13, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

Lauren Woeher wonders if her 16-month-old daughter has been harmed by tap water contaminated with toxic industrial compounds used in products like nonstick cookware, carpets and fast-food wrappers. Henry Betz, at 76, rattles around his house alone at night, thinking about the water his family unknowingly drank for years that was tainted by the same contaminants, and the pancreatic cancers that killed wife Betty Jean and two others in his household.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Many thought lead in drinking water was a problem of the past — until the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, a few years back.

And then a U.S. Government Accountability Office survey polled school districts across the country on testing for lead in drinking water in 2017. Fewer than half of those surveyed did testing; of those that did, more than a third found elevated levels.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is back in compliance for the amount of lead in its drinking water, according to results from the latest round of testing showing levels at 10 parts per billion.

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has issued a precautionary flush and boil advisory for some streets in the Brighton Heights and Marshall-Shadeland neighborhoods. 

The authority says the advisory is due to low water pressure after a 16-inch water main broke 2 a.m. Monday.

While the main has been fixed and water pressure has since been restored, PWSA says it's procedure to issue a water advisory out of caution.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is replacing 2,100 lead lines in the city by the end of the year, and using a less invasive process to switch them out called “pulling.”

Kailey Love / 90.5 WESA

It’s a classic image of American cinema: The outlaw saunters down a deserted main street while a sheriff holds the other end. They face off, guns drawn.

On Monday, Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission will begin oversight of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. Though it won't be quite like a scene from a Western, there are plenty of legal questions involved.

Kailey Love / 90.5 WESA

A mayoral panel appointed to oversee the restructuring of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has drafted a new contract to govern PWSA. 

Kailey Love / 90.5 WESA

Lead levels in Pittsburgh’s drinking water are back above the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level of 15 parts per billion.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority announced Monday that the latest round of compliance testing showed levels at 21 parts per billion.

Margaret J. Krauss

Update 1/21/18 3:06 p.m.: PWSA has lifted the flush and boil advisory.

Roughly 900 Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority customers in Lawrenceville and Bloomfield are under a flush and boil advisory.

America's Freshwater Is Getting Saltier, And That's Not Good

Jan 11, 2018
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A new study finds that the freshwater we rely on for drinking water and industry is getting saltier. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

After months of consultant presentations, public meetings, reports and data evaluation, the mayoral panel selected to judge how to restructure the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority released its report Thursday.

Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has approved a moratorium on water shutoffs to help low-income residents who rely on radiators in the winter months. Shutoffs for customers 250 percent below the federal poverty level will be barred from Dec. 1 to March 30.

PWSA interim executive director Bob Weimar said this is the first step in creating fair-payment policies within the authority.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

In seven locations throughout the city, fire hydrants are continually spewing water --- more than 15 million gallons of water.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Residents of Millvale are no longer under a flush and boil water advisory. Officials with Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) announced Sunday night that the Department of Environmental Protection had approved lifting the advisory.

Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority issued a precautionary flush and boil advisory Monday night for city neighborhoods north of the Allegheny River, as well as Millvale and Reserve Township.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Before presenting initial findings on the state of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority Monday, Steve Steckler of the consulting firm Infrastructure Management Group, Inc. said, “none of them are very good.”

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council unanimously passed two measures Tuesday to clear the pipeline for removing and replacing the city’s lead water service lines.

The first measure allows the city to work with property owners to replace lead service lines on private property. The second requires property sellers to test for lead pipes and disclose those findings to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

Kamil Kaczor / Flickr

Officials announced Tuesday that PWSA is back in compliance with federal standards for lead levels in drinking water. The next day, City Council gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allow the authority to replace the private side of residential lead service lines when it replaces the public side.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority announced Tuesday that it is now in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards for lead levels in drinking water.

Is Green Slime As Bad For Your Health As It Looks?

Jul 13, 2017
Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP

Algae blooms are expected to form again this summer on western Lake Erie, and people want to know whether the toxin in those blooms is making them sick.

Ken Lund / Flickr

This story was originally published by Allegheny Front on July 8, 2016. 

Look at a satellite map of Pennsylvania and you’ll see a lot of green. Part of the reason: There’s a ton of water in the state, and much of it resides in the ground. But what that glance at the map won’t reveal is many lakes. (OK—there’s Lake Erie, of course, but hold that thought.)

Pittsburgh artist Travis Mitzel wanted to know what was up with that.

Study: Some Highly Fluorinated Chemicals Are Harder To Filter From Water

Jun 29, 2017
Rajikiran Ghanta / Flickr

Researchers have found some kinds of chemicals are harder to filter from water.

These compounds belong to a family called highly fluorinated chemicals. They’re used to make carpets, clothes and cookware stain and water repellant.

They’ve also been used in firefighting foam at military bases and airports. Those chemicals from firefighting foam have contaminated drinking water around the country, including drinking water wells near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base near Oscoda.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

While being grilled by the Pittsburgh City Council during a reappointment hearing Wednesday, PWSA board member and City Department of Finance Treasurer Margaret Lanier said dealing with lead needs to be the system’s top priority.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is temporarily suspending its program to partially replace lead water service lines less than a month after it officially began.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Over the years, Pittsburgh's City Council has tried to encourage social change through legislation. That includes the executive order signed Friday by Mayor Bill Peduto committing the city to ideals set forth in the 195-nation Paris climate agreement, which President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from on Thursday

Deciphering 'Lead Free' Labels At The Store Isn't Always Easy

May 25, 2017
Dennis Amith / Flickr

We’ve heard a lot about lead service lines after the Flint water crisis and Pittsburgh’s efforts to replace its old pipes. But that’s not the only way lead can get into your drinking water.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner wants the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to stop all partial lead line replacements in the city.

Flickr user nicdalic

Thirty separate water systems in Southwestern Pennsylvania violated the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 2015, according to a new report from the National Resources Defense Council.

Spencer Neuharth via USFWS Mountain-Prairie / Flickr

Lead isn’t the only harmful substance that can make its way into drinking water.

Chemicals from pharmaceuticals, pesticides and personal care products can all end up in the water supply.

What's The Best Way To Protect People From Lead-Tainted Drinking Water?

Mar 24, 2017
Darron Cummings / AP

The problem of lead in drinking water has been well-known for years. But the tragedy in Flint, Michigan, where lead-tainted water poisoned hundreds of children and contributed to several deaths, has catapulted the issue into the spotlight.

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