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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:

Wagner Calls For PWSA To Stop Partial Lead Service Line Replacement

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA
Gravel covers the spot where PWSA dug up Steve Hayashi and Emily Drill's sidewalk in Squirrel Hill to determine if their private service line is made of lead.

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner wants the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to stop all partial lead line replacements in the city.

According to Wagner, doing nothing would be better than only replacing part of a line. At a news conference Monday, she said experts claim replacing part of a lead line near a home can disrupt the remaining lead and make lead levels worse.

“It’s time to fix the problem, certainly not make it worse,” Wagner said.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board in 2011 said there wasn’t enough data to conclusively determine the effectiveness of partial lead service line replacement. However, it did find that partial line replacement, poses a risk of increased lead levels in tap water by increasing the corrosion rate and/or increasing the chance that corroded lead will be mobilized.”

Wagner said some other cities have banned the process.

She urged city officials to do full service line replacements, but that’s currently not possible because of Pennsylvania’s Municipal Authorities Act, which prevents PWSA from replacing the private side of lead lines.

Wagner said PWSA performed 275 partial line replacements between January 2016 and April 30 of this year, in multiple neighborhoods. She said PWSA is ramping up their partial line replacements and that her office has requested more information on future plans.

Wagner also launched an audit last month into the Allegheny County Health Department’s role in testing lead levels. Wagner said it is ongoing and should be completed in several weeks.