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As Customers Deal With Third Flush And Boil Advisory Of 2017, PWSA Head Says It’s Unacceptable

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA
A crew works to repair a 20-inch water main break on Centre Avenue on Monday, Dec. 18.

A significant water main break in Pittsburgh’s East End led the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to issue a precautionary flush and boil advisory affecting 7,000 households. It's the third advisory this year.

Contractors and PWSA staff have been working around the clock since Sunday morning to isolate and repair a break in a 20-inch water main on Centre Avenue near South Negley Avenue.

The vulnerabilities of that main are representative of nearly 70 percent of the water pipes in PWSA’s system, said Bob Weimar, PWSA’s interim executive director.

“A very high percentage of our pipe is over 100 years old,” he said. “And the problem is that it will break when it is exposed to a major change in temperature.”

The pipes can become brittle and therefore more likely to break, he said. In addition, Sunday’s break may have been caused by a pressure issue; a pump shut down at about the same time.

It’s unacceptable for customers to have undergone three precautionary flush and boil advisories in such a short timeframe, said Weimar.

“But we’ve taken in each case an abundance of caution to minimize the potential for any water quality problems that would affect the public,” he said. “We think that a flush and boil order is sort of a minimal impact to make sure that we preserve the health and welfare of our customers.”

He added PWSA hopes to double or triple its investment in the coming year to not only replace pipes, but provide for more routine maintenance.

It will take three to four days to repair the break on Centre Ave and to restore the street, said Weimar. Water buffaloes are available to customers who are without water or unable to boil their water at:

  • Shursave IGA Super Market at 4401 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224
  • CVS at 4610 Centre Avenue at North Craig Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
  • Fire Station 8 at 149 North Euclid Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

PWSA will know by 5 p.m. Tuesday if the advisory can be lifted, when they receive the results of tests conducted Monday.

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA’s senior reporter. She covers development and transportation, and has produced award-winning podcasts on housing, work, and Pittsburgh’s lesser-known history. Before joining the newsroom full time, she covered the challenges facing Pennsylvania cities as a statewide reporter, and spent another life as an assistant editor for National Geographic Kids Magazine in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at mkrauss@wesa.fm.
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