The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority issued a precautionary flush and boil advisory Monday night for city neighborhoods north of the Allegheny River, as well as Millvale and Reserve Township.
Officials said coliform, a precursor to contamination, was found. Retesting has not shown any problems. That, plus the fact that water was pooling on the reservoir’s cover leads them to believe there are likely tears or perforations on the cover.
The reservoir has been turned off and is not serving the public. All of the pipes are being flushed.
The Lanpher Reservoir will not be turned back on until the cover is repaired or replaced, according to PWSA interim executive director Bob Weimer. It’s at its life expectancy of more than 20 years.
“We will be monitoring as required by the DEP and the county health department to verify that the water quality is safe, and we will confirm that to the public once we have completed those tests,” Wiemar said.
The advisory affects 18,000 homes in neighborhoods including Allegheny Center, Allegheny West, Brighton Heights, California-Kirkbride, Central Northside, Chateau, East Allegheny, Fineview, Herr's Island, Manchester, Marshall-Shadeland, North Shore, Northview Heights, Perry North, Perry South, Spring Garden, Spring Hill, Summer Hill, and Troy Hill. PWSA is contacting residents in those areas by robocalls.
PWSA advises customers to boil all drinking water—including that used for ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation—for at least one minute.
Customers with lead lines or those who do not know whether or not they have lead lines or solder should flush their faucets for at least one minute before filling a vessel for boiling. Flushing removes lead particles that may leach into stagnant water inside plumbing, while boiling kills harmful bacteria. Boiling without first flushing can concentrate the lead content of water.
Fire Chief Darryl Jones said drinkable water will be brought into the North Side, including Millvale and Reserve Township. There will be seven water stations with 2,500-gallon water buffalo tanks.
Water stations will be setup throughout the North Side to provide potable water, probably not available until after 10 a.m. For those who can’t make it to the designated water stations, dial 311 and water will be delivered.
“It’s limited supply. We have a disaster going on in Texas right now, which is a draw on a lot of resources, so it’s up to us to stand up and boil our water,” Jones said.
Connie Gunde, of Millvale, said she found out about the advisory from her husband and is worried about how it could affect her family.
"Late last night, he told me, after I'd already got the kids bathes and brushed their teeth with it and everything else," she said.
Pittsburgh Public Schools in the impacted area will remain open on Tuesday; according to PPS, those schools will receive daily deliveries of bottled water, and water fountains will be covered to prevent any usage by students.
Earlier on Monday, a consulting company charged with examining how PWSA should be restructured shared critical initial findings, calling the authority "a failed organization atop a dangerous and crumbling infrastructure."
Mayor Bill Peduto did not hold back in pointing to PWSA’s troubles when referring to the flush and boil order.
“We have yet another incident that shows what happens after decades of mismanagement and under-investment,” he said.
In January, PWSA issued a flush and boil advisory for 100,000 customers in central and eastern neighborhoods.
More information is available at pgh2o.com.
This story was updated at 10:01am on Wednesday, August 30 to reflect new water distribution locations.