Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Development & Transportation
Contact 90.5 WESA with a story idea or news tip:

PWSA Using 'Pulling' Technique, A Less Invasive Way To Replace Lead Lines

Kathleen J. Davis
90.5 WESA
Foreman Joe Bruno prepares the copper replacement pipe on Friday, May 4, 2018.

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.”

Contractors dig a hole in between the house and the water line, which in some neighborhoods runs below the sidewalk. The old service line is pulled out, while a new copper one is threaded in.

On Friday, this was done on a few houses on Phillips Avenue in Squirrel Hill.

PWSA contractors demonstrating a less invasive way of replacing lead pipes by ‘pulling’. In this part of Squirrel Hill there are over one hundred houses estimated to need pipe replacement — Kathleen J Davis (@katjacqueline) May 4, 2018

The method is a big contrast from the traditional trench-digging, because it only impacts a few square feet of the front yard.

“The open excavation is our last resort,” PWSA Executive Director Bob Weimar said. “We don’t want to disturb people’s yards, and we don’t want to disrupt trees that have probably been there 50, 60 years. It’s also more costly for us to do it that way.”

Weimar estimates the “pulling” method is half as expensive as the traditional way. The method doesn’t always work, in part because Pittsburgh’s topography can vary.

“Right now, it’s working 80 percent of the time,” Weimar said. “But it might not work 80 percent of the time as we move into other neighborhoods.”

There are about 130 houses in this part of Squirrel Hill that will need their lines replaced.