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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:

Lead Levels In Pittsburgh Drinking Water In Compliance, For Now

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is back in compliance for the amount of lead in its drinking water, according to results from the latest round of testing showing levels at 10 parts per billion.

The Environmental Protection Agency mandates that lead levels remain at or below 15 ppb for 90 percent of homes sampled. The December assessment exceeded this level at 21 ppb.

Credit Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority
Results from PWSA's last five lead tests.

PWSA spokesperson Will Pickering said the water utility isn’t sure why lead levels have dropped.  

“What we are hoping is that this is a reflection of some improvements that we’ve made at our drinking water treatment plant to be more stable with our water quality,” he said.

Pickering added that PWSA is continuing with plans to improve corrosion control by switching chemicals.

Lou Tackas, spokesman for Allegheny County Controller, said the positive result should not put anyone at ease because lead levels in a home can vary overtime.

“One test you could get a zero result, and in the next test you could get a result of 50 or 100, because lead does not come out of a pipe evenly,” he said. "Anyone with a lead pipe serving their home is still at risk."

Tackas did say PWSA has made improvements to the city's drinking water quality. He added the water autority should continue with plans to replace lead service lines and provide water filters to customers.

PWSA plans to test for lead again in December. It must sample homes twice a year until results show the water authority is in compliance for two consequtive assessments.

The World Health Organization said in February that, "There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe."