Pittsburgh City Councilors Want Greater Authority Over Future Water System Reform

May 9, 2018

Pittsburgh City Council is rewriting a proposal to reform the troubled Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

The original proposal was drafted by a commission assembled by Mayor Bill Peduto. It sought to de-politicize the PWSA by having its board members nominated by an independent panel, rather than politicians.

But on Wednesday, City Council proposed an amendment guaranteeing members one board seat. Councilor Corey O'Connor said that assures accountability and "also gives council a voice in the process."

City Councilor Deborah Gross, who currently represents council on the PWSA board, said the compromise approach will maintain accountability.

"We look to see that we get the best members of a board," Gross said, "but we still need to make sure there's public oversight."

Council also wants to scrap a rule allowing PWSA to take ownership of the system in 2025. Councilors have expressed concern the system could otherwise be sold to a private company.

"What we've heard consistently for the last year, from the public in every single venue, is that they support keeping this water system their own," Gross said.

Peduto's chief of staff, Dan Gilman, said the mayor agrees, but removing the sales option may not be legal. Council will next hold a series of public hearings on the issue. Gross predicted a final vote by year's end.