Prove your humanity

This story comes from our partner, 90.5 WESA.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday presented the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority with a $52.4 million loan to improve the utility’s drinking water infrastructure.

The money will fund upgrades to the agency’s pump stations, water mains and treatment facilities as part of its $470 million water reliability plan.

The country’s top water official, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox, said this type of investment will protect both public health and the planet.

According to the White House, President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will invest over $50 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure improvements across the country over the next several years.

“President Biden believes that every single person in this country deserves access to clean and safe water, and projects like this are what help make it happen,” Fox said. “The water system in Pittsburgh and many communities around the country are aging and they need a new generation of investment.”

The EPA loan came through the federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, which aims to modernize aging treatment systems nationwide.

It follows a $209 million loan from PennVest to complete this work — the largest-ever single award granted by the state agency.

“Because of the innovative nature of the financing, it’s going to reduce the burden that is placed on ratepayers to fund these very expensive critical infrastructure projects,” said PWSA CEO Will Pickering.

Pickering said when all of the planned rehabilitations and replacements are complete, the city will have a water treatment system on which future generations can rely.

Currently, the city’s only water storage facility dates back to 1908. While the clear well is replaced, PWSA will redirect water to two large reservoirs, according to the reliability plan.

Behind Pickering, contractors Friday installed pipes to replace the original supply main that carries water from the Highland II Reservoir to the pump station.
Pickering said the large-diameter drinking main project will provide redundancy, or backups, to two different areas of the city that traditionally have separate reservoirs feeding them. That way, in case one fails, the other can still supply residents with clean drinking water.

“All this hard work will lead to fewer boil water advisories, fewer pump failures, fewer breaks and less leakage across the system,” said Congresswoman Summer Lee.

More than 6,000 households in portions of Pittsburgh’s East End and South Oakland were subject to a days-long boil water advisory in February after a power outage impacted one of the system’s pump stations.