Lead

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Chris and Amanda Comeau said when their daughter Eleanor turned 10 months old, she hit lots of exciting milestones. She started moving around on her own a lot more, waving and gesturing and recognizing her grandparents on FaceTime.

What's The Best Way To Protect People From Lead-Tainted Drinking Water?

Mar 24, 2017
Darron Cummings / AP

The problem of lead in drinking water has been well-known for years. But the tragedy in Flint, Michigan, where lead-tainted water poisoned hundreds of children and contributed to several deaths, has catapulted the issue into the spotlight.

As In Flint, Cost-Cutting May Be To Blame For Pittsburgh's High Lead Levels

Mar 23, 2017
Steve Johnson / Flickr

Inside the bowels of the Pittsburgh Water Treatment Plant, what looks like a row of high-quality science fair entries hums with pipes, tanks and motors. Gina Cyprych points to a plywood structure with the number “12” on it. It’s rigged with a loop of plastic and metal pipes.

“The metallic-colored one is a lead pipe. It looks grey,” says Cyprych, the acting head of water quality for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA), which provides 300,000 people with their drinking water.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Sabrina Spiher Robinson and her husband Ted Robinson live on a hill in Upper Lawrenceville. From the set of steep steps leading to their front door, they can see the Allegheny River. But mostly what they see are construction scars.  

 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

About an hour east of Pittsburgh, in Indiana, Pa., inside a windowless building set far back from the road, the scientists at Environmental Service Laboratories test all kinds of things for safety and compliance with regulations, from drinking water to toys to hazardous waste.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Carol McCullough, 76, lives in the West End neighborhood of Westwood in the home she and her husband have shared for nearly 50 years. She had her water tested for lead years ago, but when the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority announced last summer that it had found elevated lead levels in some homes, she decided to get another test, just to be safe.

Seth Perlman / AP Photo

Twenty stories—and one controller's audit!—to get you up to speed on Pittsburgh's lead problem, from our partners and other local outlets.

 

 

“Pittsburgh to Provide Water Filters to All Residents to Reduce Lead Exposure"
90.5 WESA News
March 8, 2017

 

Katie Meyer / WITF

Pennsylvania gets a failing grade for its efforts to protect children from high levels of lead in the water at their schools, according to a report released two weeks ago from Public Interest Research Groups, a national federation of left-leaning, independent nonprofits.

It advises—among other things—that schools install water filters as soon as possible while working on longer-term solutions.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb on Thursday released a draft of the performance audit of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority Thursday with 53 recommended changes.

The audit was concurrent with widespread customer billing and meter problems, issues of lead in drinking water and inconsistent leadership.

Butler School District Sued Over Lead Levels In Water

Feb 9, 2017
Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A western Pennsylvania school district where high levels of lead in an elementary school's water went unresolved for months faces a federal lawsuit.

The school, Summit Elementary, was closed for two days in January after Butler School District Superintendent Dale Lumley said he learned the problem hadn't been rectified since it was detected in August.

The school has since been closed indefinitely for unrelated problems with E. coli in the wells from which the school's water is drawn, and its students began classes Monday in another previously shuttered building.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A western Pennsylvania school superintendent has resigned after water problems forced an elementary school to close and relocate students to a previously shuttered building.

According to the Butler Area School District’s website, Dr. Dale Lumley’s resignation is effective immediately.

Summit Elementary in Summit Township was closed for two days

About two weeks ago, the district and Department of Environmental protection worked to rectify high lead levels in the well water provided to the property.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A western Pennsylvania elementary school has been closed for two days so the district can deal with high level of lead in its water, which comes from a well.

Butler Area School District Superintendent Dale Lumley apologized to irate parents who attended a Monday meeting about the problems at Summit Elementary.

Students were given bottled water for two days earlier this school year after water tests in August found lead.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

At more than three hours, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority officials said the informational meeting they held Wednesday in Lawrenceville was one of the longest yet.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

No agency is independently testing or verifying the quality of Pittsburgh’s drinking water, according to an audit released Monday by Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner.

Aaron Warnick / PublicSource

 

What was supposed to be a routine visit to the pediatrician with little Oren resulted in a finding that sent Katy Rank Lev and her husband, Corey, into a frenzy.

Their 1-year-old had lead in his blood.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public officials have installed between three and six water bottle filling stations in each the district's 54 schools after finding 141 water fixtures texted positive for elevated levels of lead.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority this week announced changes to its protocol for testing customer water samples for lead that could cut wait time for customers in half.

Acting Chief Water Quality Officer Gina Cyprych said testing currently takes about five weeks: eight to ten business days for delivery and pickup of the testing kit and three weeks for the lab to analyze the samples. The new system should take closer to two-and-a-half weeks, but Cyprich said both time frames are “optimistic.”

The residents of Flint, Mich., received some welcome news this week: Researchers released the results of a new round of water tests, showing lead levels in that city's water system falling just below the Environmental Protection Agency action level.

Too many water samples above that level is a red flag for utilities, a sign that they may have a broader lead problem.

Virginia Tech researcher Marc Edwards, who leads the team documenting Flint's water problems, called the new results the "beginning of the end," a turning point in the city's saga with corrosive water.

On Sunday, the city of Flint, Mich., will no longer be under a federal state of emergency. A new report suggests that lead levels in the city's water are dropping, though researchers still recommend caution because of the health dangers posed by even small amounts of lead.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority officials said Friday they’re working out the kinks causing inaccurate water bills for roughly 30,000 residents. 

Residents said they’ve received inaccurate or late bills for months.

Jackie / Flickr

A federal grant will give $3.4 million to help Allegheny County residents remove lead from their homes.

It's part of $46.5 million being doled out by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development aimed at reducing lead exposure in more than 3,000 homes, 200 of which are in Allegheny County.  

Joel Penner / flickr

Allegheny County recently tested 15 percent of children under the age of eight for lead exposure and found more than 7 percent had higher than recommended levels in their blood. In response, Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, called for legislation mandating the testing of all children in the state.

Ashley Murray, multimedia editor for the Pittsburgh City Paper, talked to several people about the extent of the problem in the area.

Harrisburg Ramping Up Lead Testing, Remediation Efforts

May 12, 2016
Emily Previti / WITF

Lead-based paint remains in homes in cities nationwide, including many in Pennsylvania, despite long-standing awareness of health risks to young children.

So Hamilton Health Center, located in one of Harrisburg's most distressed neighborhoods, already does free lead-exposure screenings for children under six.

But a new partnership with the city will mean the health center gets new equipment that will mean faster testing and response.

rumpleteaser / Flickr

Jenny Stalnaker, her husband, and their 3-year-old son Townes spend a good two hours cleaning their house every night before bed. 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The city's water authority got a slap on the wrist Monday from the Wolf administration two years after making a critical change to the chemicals added to Pittsburgh drinking water.

State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley said Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority should have gotten approval from the state before switching from soda ash to caustic soda for corrosion control.

Flickr user Abby Lanes

Pittsburgh-based PPG industries announced to shareholders on Thursday that it will stop putting lead in any of its products by 2020.

The announcement came shortly after shareholder Perry Gottesfeld, public health activist and founder of the nonprofit Occupational Knowledge International, delivered a petition with more than 5,000 signatures asking the company to discontinue the use of lead.

“PPG is now the first large U.S. company to agree to completely reformulate their products and take out lead,” Gottesfeld said.

Seth Perlman / AP

 

More than 100 water systems in Pennsylvania have had lead levels above a federal threshold at least once since 2013, according to an Associated Press analysis of the data.

Courtesy of David Bellinger

 

It's 1957. Dr. Herbert Needleman is on his way to see a three-year-old patient at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Needleman is a young doctor, about six feet tall, with brown eyes and dark hair. This is the first case of lead poisoning he's ever seen.

When he shows up, the girl is not in good shape. Her eyelids are drooping. Her pulse is slow. She's not making a sound.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

  For Pennsylvania lawmakers, the problem of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan has served as a rallying cry, a teachable moment and, now, a political cudgel.

This month, House and Senate members were determined not to waste Michigan’s crisis, invoking it to propel their own efforts to minimize lead exposure from old house paint and water pipes. But as some touted legislation, one House Republican criticized the governor’s office for not springing into action in the same way.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

 

Surrounded by state health officials and fellow lawmakers, Senator Vincent Hughes said, "The only thing good that came out of the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., is a renewed, intense effort from states around the country to attempt to address what's going on with lead in their respective communities."

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