Municipal Authority of Westmoreland Co.: Water supply almost free of lead

The public utility that provides water to more than 400,000 residents in Western Pennsylvania said Wednesday that its system is virtually lead-free.

Officials with the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County said water samples collected last month revealed no traces of lead in more than 90 percent of tests performed throughout the system.

“These tests show our corrosion-control practices are doing exactly what we anticipated them to do,” said Jack Ashton, the authority's assistant manager.

The tests were part of an Environmental Protection Agency requirement to ensure water produced by public agencies is below dangerous thresholds for lead and other substances.

Water utilities are mandated to notify customers if lead levels exceed two parts per billion in more than 10 percent of samples tested every three years.

The authority was required to test samples from at least 140 homes. The authority solicited an additional 95 property owners to volunteer for tests. Ashton said tests were performed in October where lead-lined pipes were believed to supply water to homeowners.

At issue is internal plumbing on private property where lead-line pipes can corrode.

“The tests confirmed the authority has no lead in its water,” Ashton said.

The municipal authority sells water to customers in five counties: Westmoreland, Fayette, Allegheny, Armstrong and Indiana.

Officials believe about 10 to 12 percent of the system's service lines are lined with some lead but that none is present in any of the four major water supply systems at the Beaver Run Reservoir in Bell Township, along with plants in Johnstown,McKeesport and Connellsville.

Most water lines in the system utilize copper pipes, Ashton said.

Lead levels in public water supplies became an increased concern this year after a state of emergency was declared in January over water quality issues in Flint, Mich.

This summer, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority notified its customers that lead levels in drinking water it supplied reached 22 parts per billion, far beyond levels deemed acceptable by the EPA.

Officials maintained Westmoreland's system was safe, which the recent tests affirmed.

“Our residents should be happy with the clean water we supply,” said authority board Chairman Randy Roadman.

By Rich Cholodofsky | Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, 10:51 p.m.  full Trib Live story