Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also known as “the steel city”, is home to more than 300,000 residents, making it the state’s second-most populous city. One thing the city doesn’t want to be known for are the major problems it has with lead in the drinking water, which creeps into resident’s taps through old service pipes and plumbing.
In a recent lead analysis, the city was found to be in the 90th percentile with concentration levels of 5.13 parts per billion. Even worse, two of the samples exceeded the Federal Action Level. In other words, Pittsburgh is still in compliance with federal regulations - but just barely. What’s worse is that the EPA, CDC, and American Academy of Pediatrics all say that when it comes to our children, there is no safe level of lead.
That’s why community groups negotiated an agreement that will see thousands of lead water pipes removed by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) by 2026. The groups were represented by NRDC and the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project, who were convened in an attempt to address the chronically high lead levels. This leads us to wonder, what are residents supposed to do until 2026? Here is an article about the plan.
The settlement, already approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, dictates that priority needs to be on residents in high-risk neighborhoods because these residents have the highest probability of lead exposure. The agreement also stipulates that the practice of replacing small sections of lead service lines needs to be limited because replacing portions at a time can actually cause lead levels to increase.
PWSA was also ordered to expand its free tap water filter program, and now must provide them to low-income renters who live in dwellings that likely have lead lines. PWSA also needs to provide filters to residents every time it replaces a water meter or finds out that a customer’s tap water contains at least 10 parts per billion of lead. But what about residents that don’t fall into one of these categories? When does their relief come?
When it comes to Chromium 6 in Pittsburgh’s water supply, things take another dark detour. The highly toxic metal was found to be at levels that averaged 535 parts per trillion. That’s more than 28 times higher than the level determined to bring a risk of cancer.
But that’s not all. Tap water in Pittsburgh was found to have moderately high levels of DBPs. Disinfectant Byproducts or DBPs exist when chlorine-based disinfectants are added to the water supply. According to the EPA, these chemicals are linked to increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as problems with the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system.
For those who live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania an at-home water filtration device will give your family access to clean, quality drinking water, and give you the power over your tap. Simply put, we can’t trust that water municipalities will get the job done when it comes to decontaminating our water. City water authorities work to remove contaminants but often fall short in the long run. In the end, impurities and contaminants slip through the cracks and find their way to residential taps all too often. Further down we’ll talk more about water filtration and how a water filtration system can provide your family with cleaner, healthier water, but first, let’s talk about how Pittsburgh’s water supply became so bad in the first place.
How did this happen?
There are a few different factors that combine to create the perfect storm that makes a state’s water quality substandard.
- Deteriorating infrastructure - The first reason deals with the infrastructure of the municipality supplying the water. In a perfect situation, public water pipes would remain in tip-top condition but in the real world, they don’t. Here’s a common example seen in deteriorating pipes: If a water pipe becomes old and starts to leak it can create a vacuum-like situation pulling untreated water in with treated water. When you turn on your faucet, your water would be both treated and untreated.
- Deteriorating infrastructure (part 2) - Another problem with old pipes is that they can seep copper, lead and additional heavy metal impurities - inviting a dangerous and unhealthy cocktail of contaminants into your drinking cup.
- Hazardous runoff - Hazardous tap water is also caused by runoff from farms and manufacturing plants, like car-making plants and coal mining plants. Runoff seeps into our water bodies and then gets into our water supply.
- Adding chlorine - Municipalities often add chlorine to the water supply in order to improve the taste or smell of the water; but it’s not safe.
How can I find out if my home has bad tap water in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?
Ask your provider.
The first thing you should do is call or email your local water provider and ask them to give you a copy of the most up-to-date water quality report they have. This report will detail the exact tests done to the water in your area with the dates the tests were performed and the results of the tests. The test results will give you insight into what contaminants may have been detected in your water. After that you can decide to have further testing done or you could move forward satisfied with what the report says - either way now you have information about the likely contaminants in your water.
Send samples for testing.
The most thorough testing will occur when you send out a sample of your tap water - this will also give you the most accurate results. You should always send your sample to a certified water-testing lab because they hire experts who will know what to look for. As an example: some chemical contaminants are hard-to-detect and can be overlooked by novice testers. Professional water labs will check for bacteria, chlorine, lead and pesticides as well as any specific contaminants you request.
Test your water at home.
You can also do it yourself and if that’s something you enjoy, there are water testing kits that can be purchased to make that happen. Professional lab testing is the most accurate and thorough way to test water - but with that said, at-home water testing kits can provide you with crucial information on your drinking water.
You can buy a kit online or in your local hardware store. The test strip kit will give you instructions on how to perform a test at home. Here’s an important tip: when testing your water at home, yourself, do it twice. Testing your water two times will ensure that your results are accurate. If you find that impurities are present, consider investing in a good water filtration device. A good water filtration system will help you to eliminate many contaminants and bring your drinking water to its most healthy and pure state. Finding a good, reliable water filtration system may be a daunting task - so let’s talk about the best system available to you.
Invest in The Water Machine.
The Water Machine is the world's first all-glass, gravity-fed countertop water filter. Its design is both functional and stylish, making The Water Machine an eye-pleasing focal point in your kitchen - or wherever you decide to put it. The Water Machine features a sleek hammered-glass design and can filter up to 6,000 gallons of water over a 10-year span (if you consume a gallon-and-a-half of water a day). Water filtered through The Water Machine is crisp and clean without a metallic or plastic aftertaste; it is some of the most delicious and refreshing water you'll ever enjoy. Plus our all-glass design helps reduce plastic waste in the environment. In fact, The Water Machine is committed to environmental causes, with a portion of all of our sales going toward clean water organizations including Water.org, who has given 36-million people worldwide access to clean, uncontaminated water; and Charitywater.org, whose goal is to bring clean drinking water to everyone on the planet. Please visit their websites to see more of the amazing work these organizations do.
The Water Machine eliminates the following contaminants: Bacteria like E. coli, Chlorine, Viruses, Chloramines, Parasites, Fluoride, Heavy Metals, Trihalomethane (THMs), Pharmaceuticals, Petroleum Contaminants, Bisphenol-A (BPA), Radiologicals, Perfluorochemicals (PFOAS), and Herbicides & Pesticides.