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2,500 PWSA Sewer-Only Customers At Risk Of A Water Shutoff

Jake Savitz
90.5 WESA
PWSA provides sewer-only services to roughly 28,000 accounts in the city of Pittsburgh. A 2015 billing issue resulted in a backlog of payments; 2,500 accounts remain delinquint.

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has sent letters to 2,500 residential customers warning of an impending shut-off.

There are about 28,000 households in the city of Pittsburgh that get their drinking water from another provider, such as Penn American Water, but rely on PWSA to take away wastewater. In 2015, billing issues prevented the authority from properly charging those consumers for services. That problem was resolved in October of 2016, and regular billing was resumed.

However, PWSA recognized it could be a burden for people to pay the backlog all at once, and that the authority was at fault, says Will Pickering, communications manager for the authority.

“Some customers did opt to just pay down that balance, but others who had not budgeted—and in all honesty had probably forgotten that we hadn’t billed them—we put them on varying payment plans to bring them current on that balance.”

Of the originally affected 28,000 accounts about 5,600 commercial and residential sewage-only customers still have an outstanding balance and were sent a 10-day shutoff notice in mid-January. According the authority, their collective balance represents $4.9 million of debt. If there was no response, Pickering said the authority then sent a 48-hour notice. Though they affected customers rely on PWSA for sewage, the authority would work with the account’s water provider to have the drinking water turned off. Pickering said a water shut-off is a last resort.

The authority encourages people to call with questions about their bills, or to call the Dollar Energy Fund to see if their income qualifies them for the shut-off moratorium.

Pickering said no shut-offs have yet been posted.

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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