Law Providing Oversight of Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority Now in Effect
4/2/2018
HARRISBURG – A law which places the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) under the oversight of the Public Utility Commission (PUC) went into effect yesterday, said House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny).

Over the last year, local and national newspapers have recounted many service issues facing PWSA. 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.

“The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has been grossly mismanaged,” said Turzai. “The state had to step in. Working in a bipartisan fashion with my good friend, Rep. Harry Readshaw, we knew something needed to be done. We developed a solution that will provide more oversight, ensure fiscal responsibility and demand best practices. The authority needs to be held to the same standards as the private sector.”

While Act 65 of 2017 was signed into law on Dec. 21, 2017, the law became effective on April 1, 2018, to allow the PWSA and the PUC time to prepare for the transition. 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.

“The PUC’s professionalism and grasp of the issues facing the PWSA has been outstanding and underscores that they are the appropriate entity to step in and provide the necessary oversight,” said Turzai. “We have been receiving updates from the commissioners on their progress, and we look forward to continuing with an open line of communication.”

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 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
28th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Neal Lesher nlesher@pahousegop.com
717.260.6495
RepTurzai.com / Facebook.com/RepTurzai / Twitter.com/RepTurzai


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