Pa. House unanimously approves bill to put Pittsburgh’s water authority under state oversight

On to the Senate

The state capitol building in Harrisburg

The state capitol building in Harrisburg

Ken Marshall / Flickr
Sarah Anne Hughes

Members of the Pennsylvania House unanimously voted today to approve a proposal to put the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority under state oversight.

All present members of Allegheny County’s House delegation — both Democrats and Republicans — voted in favor of the legislation, which was introduced by Speaker Mike Turzai and Rep. Harry Readshaw. The bill proposes to put the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority under the oversight of the Pennsylvania Utility Commission.

“PWSA has been experiencing a number of very public issues over the past year or more,” Readshaw, a Democrat who represents part of Pittsburgh, said in a statement. “News items in the past year have highlighted unsustainable debt levels, billing errors, leaks, unmetered accounts and, especially, lead and other water quality issues. This bill would offer Pittsburgh water customers a new, unbiased level of protection and oversight for local water quality.”

Turzai called the bill “a positive step forward” in a statement.

Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration has said it is open to additional oversight, but opposes legislation that would lead to the privatization of PWSA. Turzai has previously expressed support for privatizing the authority, and told the Post-Gazette earlier this week PWSA “needs to run like private-sector utilities run.”

Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokesperson earlier this week said the administration is evaluating the proposal.

The legislation now goes to the state Senate for consideration. Sen. Jay Costa of Allegheny County is planning to introduce similar legislation.