PWSA: Pittsburgh flush and boil water advisory could be lifted Thursday

That’s the earliest time possible because of state testing requirements, a PWSA official said.

Pittsburgh's North Side neighborhoods that were affected by the flush and boil water advisory are in blue, as well as Reserve and Millvale.

Pittsburgh's North Side neighborhoods that were affected by the flush and boil water advisory are in blue, as well as Reserve and Millvale.

Map Courtesy of PWSA
Sarah Anne Hughes

Updated 5:57 p.m.

Thousands of households in Pittsburgh and nearby areas have been under a flush and boil advisory for nearly a day — and they’ll remain that way for the time being.

PWSA’s Robert Weimar said Tuesday afternoon that the advisory will remain in place until the Department of Environmental Regulation gives the OK, which could come as early as Thursday.

“We have to prove ourselves in order for the state to lift the order,” Weimar, PWSA’s interim executive director, said.

Mayor Bill Peduto’s Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin said they hope to prove to state regulators that the advisory can be lifted “in the next day or so.”

The earliest the order could be lifted is Thursday because of testing requirements, Weimar said. “It’s a high probability that we should be able to lift it sometime Thursday. At the very latest, we hope it will be Friday.”

PWSA announced the flush and boil advisory for North Side neighborhoods, Millvale and Reserve Township shortly after 8 p.m. Monday. Officials explained at a 10 p.m. press conference that the advisory stemmed from abnormal tests Friday — followed by normal tests Saturday — that led to the discovery of tears in the Lanpher Reservoir cover.

The tears left the water open to possible contamination from bird and other animal droppings, which led PWSA to issue the advisory late Monday.

In addition to boiling their own water, residents affected by the advisory have access to potable water at 10 sites. (See map below.)

Officials also clarified the timeline, with Peduto saying DEP was advising against a boil advisory Sunday. That order was revised after a consultant found tears in the reservoir cover Monday, at which time PWSA informed DEP of the issue. DEP handed down the order Monday afternoon.

“PWSA must demonstrate to DEP in writing that the situation has been corrected and public health and safety are being protected before DEP will approve lifting of the boil water advisory and the resumption of water distribution from the Lanpher Reservoir,” Lauren Fraley, community relations coordinator for DEP, said by email. “Specifically, PWSA must flush the affected portions of its distribution system, maintain increased disinfectant residuals, and provide two consecutive days of sampling results collected from the affected area that are negative for total coliform bacteria. A lifting of the advisory must be approved by DEP in writing.”

Fraley was unable to immediately comment on Peduto’s statements about the order timeline.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Mike Turzai used the latest boil advisory to call on the state Senate to pass his bill to put PWSA under state oversight.

“The management failures at the PWSA have continued for too long. It is hard to fathom that 20 percent of the PWSA’s workforce is on disability leave. Further it is inconceivable that the authority loses 50 percent of its water as a result of leaks in the system,” the Allegheny County Republican said in a statement. “What have the city leaders done to remedy this deplorable situation? Oversight is needed to bring the system under control.”

While Peduto’s administration has expressed support for any additional assistance for PWSA, the mayor previously said Turzai introduced the bill without consulting city officials.

Peduto again stressed Tuesday that PWSA’s many problems will take years and billions of dollars to fix.