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Development & Transportation

American Rescue Plan dollars go towards replacing hundreds of lead lines in Pittsburgh

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Sarah Boden
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90. 5 WESA
Workers remove a lead service line in Highland Park and replace with it with one made out of plastic. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority says it wants to replace all public lead lines in the city by 2026.

The American Rescue Plan is funding the replacement of some 750 public lead lines in Pittsburgh, according to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority.

The money for this $17 million project comes out of the City of Pittsburgh’s pot of $355 million it was allotted from last year’s $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package.

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Sarah Boden
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90.5 WESA
An old lead service line removed from Highland Park. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority plans to replace all lead lines by 2026.

Typically, when there’s a construction project such as lead-line replacement, the utility must take out a loan.

“This is cash in hand that we are getting from the federal government. So instead of carrying that debt, we’re able to pay cash to the contractors,” said the authority’s executive director Will Pickering. “That means we don’t have to ask ratepayers for rate increases.”

In addition to the federal funding, another $4.7 million from the state will go toward replacing another 250 lines.

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

The non-profit municipal utility says it is focusing efforts in residential areas with elevated lead levels and on lines that supply water to child care facilities.

Lead is a neurotoxin that impacts children’s brain development. High levels can cause irreversible damage.

“Lead can be found in many sources throughout a home. It can be found in paint and dust and soil and water. And [lead line replacement] is getting at one of those primary sources of contamination and impact to a child’s health,” said Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, an Allegheny County Council representative and head of Women for a Healthy Environment.

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Sarah Boden
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90.5 WESA News
Workers remove a lead service line and replace with it with one made out of plastic. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority says it plans to replace all public lead lines in the city by 2026.

Since 2016, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority reports it has replaced more than 8,800 public lead lines with those made out of copper and high-quality plastic. An additional 5,000 private water lines have also been switched out.

An estimated 7,750 public lines remain; the city aims to remove these by 2026.

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