Maintaining safe drinking water requires rigorous testing, and regulations from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency require reports on those tests at regular intervals: some daily, some monthly, some yearly.
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has hired an outside firm, CWM Environmental, to help rebuild its laboratory so that it can eventually do all that testing in-house.
In recent years, PWSA has sent its testing out, some of it to CWM. Over a two-year period, CWM will help train existing lab staff, overhaul standard operating procedures and bring in new equipment. PWSA’s board approved $500,000 a year for CWM.
“We would like to see the lab restored to its...former glory,” said PWSA’s Interim Executive Director Bob Weimar.
A crucial part of being able to do that work is helping PWSA regain its Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection or PADEP certification.
CWM serves 230 municipalities in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, but PWSA is its biggest customer, said Dave Kohl, the firm’s owner and president.
“They’re making great strides and trying to just improve this system,” he said. “They’re spending money, they’re tackling some of the DEP requirements and suggestions and they’re going after it very aggressively.”
Keeping up with all the tests required for compliance is a challenge, said Kohl.
"We're going to help them improve that process and bring it in-house. It's not like the water wasn't safe before," Kohl said. "It's that they're trying to improve that entire system, and give them a chance to quality-control their product."
The state DEP now requires PWSA to conduct more testing on lead service lines, as part of a consent order and agreement reached this month. CWM will help PWSA learn to tackle an increased volume of testing.
“Our intent is to strive to meet the optimization goals that both the state and federal government has given us,” said Weimar at a board meeting this month. “This is all part of our strategy to become a best in class utility.”