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Pittsburgh's history of lead in our water, paint, and soil continues to have enormous repercussions for the area's public health. Hidden Poison is a series on lead problems and solutions, reported by public media partners 90.5 WESA News, Allegheny Front, PublicSource, and Keystone Crossroads. Read more at our website: hiddenpoison.org.

Gross Proposes To Fund Giving Families Lead Filtering Pitchers

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA
City Councilwoman Deb Gross proposes buying lead-filtering water pitchers for families with young children who are more at risk of developmental delays from lead poisoning.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross is leading a fundraising effort to buy lead-filtering water pitchers for families with young children.

She said the city could provide a countertop pitcher to each of Pittsburgh's estimated 25,000 households with a child under age 6 for less than $1 million. She said she hopes private foundations and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority will be able to allocate funding within a month.

Gross, who sits on PWSA's board, said it will take years to replace the city’s problematic water lines, long after the city's "most vulnerable citizens" need help. Research suggests young children face a far greater risk to lead poisoning, which can stunt growth and brain development.

“So at least you know you are providing drinking water that is lead-free,” she said. “And if that’s the first place we can start, then we can and should do that.”

Gross said it is important children have safe drinking water at home, but she also wants to work with Pittsburgh Public Schools to address any unique needs.

The district voluntarily tested its faucets and fountains in August and found that 3 percent of samples showed lead levels higher than safe standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The district spent almost $2.5 million on testing, surveying and plumbing costs to install up to six lead-filtering water fountains in each of the 54 schools.

School Board President Regina Holley said sending the refillable pitchers home with all students would be ideal. She said she plans to ask district officials to determine an estimated cost.

State Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) is re-introducing 2016 legislation that would require all schools to annually test for lead. Senate Bill 1176 was introduced in a package of bills aimed at resolving lead issues.