Feb. 01, 2019

HARRISBURG - Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) released the following statement applauding Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s investigation into the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) which resulted in 161 criminal charges.

The attorney general charged PWSA for failing to notify residents when the agency replaced lead water lines, creating health risks for affected households. In addition, the authority was charged with failing to sample water lines following the replacements within the time frame required under state law.

“Attorney General Shapiro conducted a thorough investigation into the deficiencies at the PWSA and we applaud him for ensuring that there is accountability for those deficiencies” said Turzai. “It was the same concern for the public that lead us to enact legislation placing the PWSA under the oversight of the Public Utility Commission in 2017.”

Act 65 of 2017, which was legislation authored by Turzai to place PWSA under the oversight of the Public Utility Commission (PUC), went into effect in May of 2018.

Over the last several years, PWSA was faced with many servicing issues. They include multi-million-dollar debt and uncollectible accounts, unmetered accounts, incorrect billing, system leaks, and thousands of lead service lines, many of which have not been identified or located. They have been cited with non-compliance by the Environmental Protection Agency for Clean Water Act violations. These issues call into serious question the sustainability of PWSA and the health and safety of those served by the system.

Also, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) penalized PWSA $2.5 million for violations that occurred from 2014 through 2017, including exceeding a federal threshold for lead levels in water, switching chemicals used to limit lead levels in water, and failing to replace a required number of lead service lines.

A consultant’s report issued in August 2017 by Infrastructure Management Group called the PWSA a failed organization atop a dangerous and crumbling structure. The dysfunctional culture at the authority exposed that about 20 percent of PWSA’s 250 employees are out of work on short-term disability.

The maximum penalty for each count is one year in prison and a fine of not less than $1,250 nor more than $12,500.

“PUC oversight is crucial to correcting the authority’s long-standing difficulties,” said Turzai. “The PUC has the power to demand sound financial practices, systemic upgrades to infrastructure and reliable service delivery to customers. That’s why it is imperative for us to make lasting change within the agency.”

Representative Mike Turzai
Speaker of the House
28th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

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