PWSA Confident In Water Safety, But Boil Order Stays In Place

Feb 1, 2017

The precautionary boil order in effect for about half of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority customers will most likely remain in place through the end of the week.

“We’re pretty confident in the water quality that is out in the system now,” PWSA Environmental Compliance coordinator Gina Cyprych said. “This is, again, just redundant, proactive measures that we are taking.”

The order was issued Tuesday evening due to lower than usual levels of chlorine, which is used to disinfect the water. Interim PWSA Executive Director Bernard Lindstrom said at no time has there been any indication that there are unsafe levels of bacteria or other contaminates. However, they have taken the Highland Reservoir offline, increased the amount of chlorine in the system and increased testing seven fold.

“Were doing this, again, out of an abundance of caution,” Lindstrom said. “We are sending water quality experts across the city to collect these samples, get them to labs and get the results back to the (Pennsylvania) Department of Environmental Protection.”

Some of those tests return results nearly instantly, others take 24 hours to process. It will be up to the DEP to decide when the boil order can be lifted.

“What we're looking for is clarity,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin. "What is it going to take to comply with the order?"

Acklin said he does not believe there is a water quality issue, but they are mobilizing as if there were.

That mobilization includes setting up 15 water distribution stations.

Residents who do not feel they can boil water and cannot get to one of the stations may call the city’s 311 line and water will be brought to their homes.

PWSA Interim Director Bernard Lindstrom stands before a map as he and city officials outline the response that has been mounted.
Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

“We will ascertain your capabilities and make every effort to deliver water to you,” said Pittsburgh Fire Chief Daryl Jones. “I’m asking you to be patient, but we will get you a substantial amount of water that you will need. It probably will be within an hour depending on call volume.”

The ride sharing company Uber has also dedicated $20,000 for free rides to the distribution centers.  Half of it will be allocated to lower income neighborhoods.

"We want to ensure that transportation is not a barrier for Pittsburghers in need of safe, clean water,” said Jennifer Krusius, General Manager for Uber Pittsburgh, in a prepared statement. “Uber stands ready to help during this difficult time however we can.”

The free offer is for rides of $10 or less, but Krusius said that should be enough to get to the centers.

In the meantime, Pittsburgh Public School students are expected to return to class as normal Thursday.  The district said clean water for drinking and cooking will be available at every school.