PITTSBURGH –Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) today called on Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and city council to work with the private sector and labor on the systemic issues facing the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.
“Yesterday we learned that labor unions representing the construction trades are working with Peoples Water to offer a partnership to fix Pittsburgh’s longstanding water issues. This latest initiative is in addition to offers that have been made over the past couple years from multiple utilities to privatize the PWSA outright. It is time Mayor Peduto and city council take the calls seriously and work with the private sector and organized labor on a path forward,” Turzai said.
The Pittsburgh Regional Building and Construction Trades Council wrote a letter asking Mayor Bill Peduto and city council to support Peoples Water’s bid to build a $350 million drinking water plant on the Allegheny River. The plant is part of Peoples Water’s proposed partnership plan with the city to rebuild the entire water infrastructure of the city.
“PWSA continues to be grossly mismanaged, as it has been for decades, which forced the Legislature to take action placing the PWSA under PUC oversight. Mayor Peduto and city council need to take the calls of the private sector and organized labor to help provide safe drinking water to the people of Pittsburgh seriously.”
In July, PWSA filed its first rate case with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) which is currently being considered by the PUC. The PWSA is under the oversight of the PUC as a result of Act 65 of 2017, which was signed into law on Dec. 21, 2017. The law placed the PWSA under PUC oversight and required the PWSA’s board of directors to bring the system into compliance with the requirements of Title 66 of the PA Statutes and PUC regulations applicable to investor-owned water and wastewater utilities. On March 15, 2018, the PUC approved the Final Implementation Order by a 5-0 vote. The order details ratemaking, tariff approval, compliance plans, infrastructure improvements, consumer protections and other issues related to the implementation of Act 65.
A consultant’s report issued in August by Infrastructure Management Group called the PWSA “a failed organization atop a dangerous and crumbling structure.” The report noted a dysfunctional culture at the authority and exposed the fact that about 20 percent of PWSA’s 250 employees are out of work on short-term disability.
In addition, a November 2017 performance audit released by the state auditor general’s office highlighted several of the deficiencies with the PWSA’s operation. They include:
• Under a 1995 agreement with the city, the PWSA is required to provide 600 million gallons of free water each year. However, the PWSA does not track how much water the city uses annually because many city-owned properties are not metered.
• Between 2012 and 2016, PWSA’s financial position went from a positive balance of $7.7 million to a negative balance of $15.7 million.
• As of Dec. 31, 2016, PWSA has a debt load of $842.5 million, which has grown by $43.2 million since Dec. 31, 2012.
• PWSA is not able to bill for approximately 50 percent of clean water its system produces due to leaky pipes and unbilled accounts.
• Since 2014, four individuals have served as executive director.
• Billing irregularities frequently occur, including a complete lack of billing for thousands of customers for a period of several months arising from changes in PWSA’s billing
Representative Mike Turzai
Speaker of the House
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Paul Engelkemier