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Uncertainty Over Pittsburgh's Drinking Water Intensifies, As New Players Submit Plans

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority workers replace a lead line on Bingham Street on the South Side Thursday, May 24, 2018.

Earlier this week, Peoples Natural Gas announced that it would partner with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to provide clean water to Pittsburgh, and unveiled a model for a state-of-the-art water treatment facility to be situated on riverfront property in O'Hara Township.

Peoples CEO Morgan O’Brien said that working as a joint entity, his company could replace old gas lines and old leaden water pipes, saving both time and money. He was quoted as saying he, “can’t imagine a scenario where the city says no to us.”

PWSA, on the other hand, does not share that enthusiasm, nor were they informed of Peoples proposal before it was brought to the public. The public agency has raised concerns that because Peoples is a private company, it will be interested principally in revenue. 

PWSA said that replacing gas lines and water pipes do not necessarily overlap. Moreover, Peoples is only interested in supplying drinking water—not sewage or stormwater—the most profitable aspect of water supply.

Board members of PWSA said that this is a move toward privatization that could ultimately lead to customer vulnerability down the road. But with recent flush-and-boil advisories, lead piping discoveries, and shifting leadership dynamics at PWSA, it appears the public is ready to sign on to Peoples plan.  

WESA’s Margaret J. Krauss and Bob Bauder of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review join the discussion about the future of Pittsburgh’s water.

Next in the program... 

The redistricting of Pennsylvania took center stage earlier this year when the state Supreme Court struck down the old map and drew up a new one, a decision predicted to weaken Republican strongholds in gerrymandered districts. But that map is more like the latest installment than a final version. Congressional maps are redrawn based on population, and the question has been raised as to who would draw the next map after the 2020 census. Some legislators suggested it should be decided by Pennsylvanians themselves.

Issuing an independent commission of citizens isn’t totally out of the ordinary: currently, six states have such commissions of private citizens—who are barred from running for office—draw their maps. The same idea is under consideration in Pennsylvania's legislature, but the deadline for passing this legislation is July 6, 2018—today.

Now that the date has passed, the soonest a citizens’ commission could draw maps is 2031. 

Joining the program to discuss redistricting and other issues Harrisburg did not act on before summer recess is WESA’s Katie Meyer.

Coming up... 

It’s been more than two weeks since President Trump signed an executive order putting an end to family separations at the border. However, nearly 3,000 children remain away from their parents, and some of them are housed in Holy Family Institute near Pittsburgh and a facility in the Lehigh Valley. The legal process for reunification is not a simple one

The executive order ended separations, but did not address the children and families already in custody and separated. Protests against the policy erupted around the country, including in Pittsburgh

Reporters Theresa Clift of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WESA’s Sarah Boden and Katie Meyer discuss Pennsylvania’s role, Harrisburg’s reaction, and protestor’s demands.

Later on... 

A sign of the times or just a bottom line decision? The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette announced last week that it will stop printing two days per week. It’s not yet decided which two days will be eliminated.  Pamela Walck , assistant professor of multimedia journalism at Duquesne University, weighs in on how the shift will affect journalism, and if a move to digital will leave print customers in the dark. 

And finally...

They're back. And they're furrier than ever

The furries return to Pittsburgh this weekend for the 13th annual Anthrocon, and will hold their parade on Saturday, July 7, from 2-4 p.m. 

Rossilynne Culgan of The Incline talks all things furry with The Confluence.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program. Each week, reporters, editors and storytellers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here.

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