Hidden Poison

Pittsburgh's history of lead in our water, paint, and soil continues to have enormous repercussions for the area's public health. Hidden Poison is a series on lead problems and solutions, reported by public media partners 90.5 WESA News, Allegheny Front, PublicSource, and Keystone Crossroads. Read more at our website: hiddenpoison.org.

Christian Naenny / Flickr

 

 

From a conference room at the North Shore offices of Peoples Gas, president and CEO Morgan O’Brien has a view of Pittsburgh’s rivers.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Every day, multiple times a day, Jesse Perkins runs the water in his kitchen sink for about a minute-and-a-half, until it runs cold, indicating that it’s fresh water from the main in the middle of his street. He does it before he fills up a glass of water or a pot for cooking.

Lead-Tainted Water Is A Big Problem In Pittsburgh. So Is Lead In The City's Soil

Mar 29, 2017
Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

On a chilly Saturday afternoon in March, people trickle into Grow Pittsburgh’s Garden Resource Center in the city’s Larimer neighborhood. 

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.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

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

 

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

With no exceptions, the $1 million Safe Water Plan will distribute water filters to city residents to reduce exposure to lead. People living within the city’s boundaries are eligible to receive one, regardless of income level, whether they rent or own, or who their water provider is.

While it’s a start, Mayor Bill Peduto said this is not a long-term solution.

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 Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross is leading a fundraising effort to buy lead-filtering water pitchers for families with young children.

She said the city could provide a countertop pitcher to each of Pittsburgh's estimated 25,000 households with a child under age 6 for less than $1 million. She said she hopes private foundations and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority will be able to allocate funding within a month.

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.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

A flush and boil water advisory affecting 100,000 Pittsburghers earlier this month, delays in lead test results and billing snafus have led Mayor Bill Peduto to call for an advisory panel to mull the idea of restructuring the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

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.

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