Community Issues

PA Attorney General Files Criminal Charges Against PWSA

Josh Shapiro says the authority violated clean drinking water laws by not notifying consumers of lead pipe replacement or testing their water afterwards

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has filed 161 criminal charges against the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority because the agency didn't notify residents when they replaced lead water lines, and they didn't quickly sample the water for lead after those lines were replaced. Shapiro says this is a violation of Pennsylvania's Safe Drinking Water Act, and put families' health at risk.

"Pennsylvanians have a constitutional right to clean air and pure water. I'm here to defend that," Attorney General Shapiro said at a news conference at a recreation center in Lawrenceville, one of the city neighborhoods affected by these so-called criminal acts

The 161 counts in the indictment represents the 161 households where the attorney general says PWSA didn't notify residents and didn't conduct sampling within the time frame required by law. Click here to read the AG's full statement.

"PWSA violated the law. They are being held to account for their criminal violations." Josh Shapiro, PA Attorney General

"We're deeply disappointed with the decision made by Attorney General Shapiro to pursue criminal charges related to some of the actions previously addressed in a November 2017 civil settlement with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection," PWSA executive director Robert Weimar said in a statement. "We self-reported the issues to DEP, agreed to a civil penalty of $2.4 million, and have since established one of the most comprehensive lead service line replacement programs in the nation."

It's just the latest blow in the authority's long-running problem with elevated lead levels in Pittsburgh's drinking water, caused by the fact that the city's aging water system was originally constructed with lead pipe. The authority has also been criticized for their handling of the lead problem.

Lead is especially dangerous for children, who can have brain and nervous system damage from drinking water with high-lead levels, leading to learning disabilities. Adults can suffer from kidney damage, high blood pressure and reproductive problems from being exposed to lead.

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