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Updated 14 minutes ago
Pittsburgh residents with children ages 6 and younger would receive free water filters through a city-sponsored fundraising effort that Councilwoman Deb Gross outlined Tuesday.
Gross of Highland Park, who serves on the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority board of directors, estimated it would cost less than $1 million to provide countertop filters to about 25,000 families with children in that age group.
PWSA last year reported that lead levels in drinking water exceeded a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limit of 15 parts per billion. Testing at year's end indicated lead levels had decreased but still exceeded the threshold.
Gross said PWSA is conducting testing to locate homes in the city that have lead water lines and is planning ways to replace them, but “that's going to take years.”
“What we can do now is provide water filters,” Gross said. “I'm saying today that's what we should do. I don't have the money as I stand here today. I will call on community leaders and other levels of government to put some money together.”
Mayor Bill Peduto supports the effort, according to Kevin Acklin, his chief of staff.
Dr. Ned Ketyer, a Scott pediatrician, said children are most susceptible to lead exposure. He said it can cause brain damage and cognitive problems, including learning disabilities, hearing impairments, decreased academic achievement and antisocial behaviors.
“All the effects of lead exposure have lifelong consequences for children when they become adults,” he said. “There is no safe level of exposure to lead.”
State Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, said he is cosponsoring legislation that would require schools in the state to test yearly for lead in drinking water and publish the findings.
The Butler Area School District in January closed Summit Elementary because of lead and E. coli contamination in well water. Three district administrators have resigned over the growing scandal and allegations of a cover-up.
Regina B. Holley, president of the Pittsburgh Public Schools board of directors, said each school in the district has at least one water fountain that filters out lead. She said she would like to have every fountain equipped with a filter but was unsure how much that would cost.
“It is something I am definitely going to ask the business manager,” she said.
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