Our Water Campaign statement on Attorney General’s PWSA Charges

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro recently announced that his office has filed charges against the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) regarding the 2017 lead crisis.

Said Pittsburgh United Environmental Justice Organizer Aly Shaw, “The Our Water Campaign has worked for several years to address the problem of lead in our drinking water. Every city resident deserves access to clean drinking water. We know that lead poisoning can result in severe, long-term health problems, and so we are heartened that the Attorney General is taking Pittsburgh’s lead issues seriously. However, we’re concerned that this legal action focuses singularly on PWSA, the public authority in charge of cleaning up the lead crisis, rather than on Veolia, the Paris-based water corporation that managed PWSA during the time in question. For two years, we’ve worked with local residents to make sure that Veolia is held accountable for their mismanagement of  PWSA and their role in the city’s lead crisis. We’d like to see the Attorney General’s office do the same, and place blame where it belongs.”

Under Veolia’s management, the chemical used to prevent lead contamination was switched to a cheaper alternative without the required state approval. And, the company cut in half PWSA staff responsible for testing water quality. While the residents of Pittsburgh were left to deal with the lead crisis that followed Veolia’s management, privatizer Veolia walked away with $11 million dollars — and left thousands of people with unsafe or unaffordable water.

The lead crisis that Veolia left PWSA to clean up is an unfortunate reminder that we must stand up and say no to multinational corporations seeking to enrich their shareholders on the backs of Pittsburghers, especially our most vulnerable residents.

PWSA–now under new management and leadership–has made enormous progress in recent months working with the community to make water safer and more affordable for Pittsburgh residents. It is important that they continue to be held accountable to the public they serve. But we also deserve a full, public, statewide investigation into the role Veolia’s mismanagement of PWSA may have played in Pittsburgh’s city’s water crisis. We hope that this is a key part of any further action taken by Attorney General Shapiro.

Our Water Campaign

Safe, Affordable, Publicly-Controlled Water for All

The Our Water Campaign is a coalition of local organizations, including Pittsburgh United, Clean Water Action, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, Sierra Club, the Hill District Consensus Group, Nine Mile Run Watershed, Penn Future, Thomas Merton Center, and One Pennsylvania. The campaign was formed to ensure safe, affordable, publicly controlled water for all. Aqua America is the latest private water company to make a bid to privatize Pittsburgh’s water system – read more about the corporation’s record labor, water quality, and water rates here. 

Read our full campaign platform for here! 

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The Our Water Campaign has been fighting for publicly controlled water for almost 2 years. Our Water is too important to be left in the hands of a private corporation, especially one owned or run by a private company that only cares about profits.

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Media Coverage:

Pittsburgh Water Agency Promises Faster Action on Lead

“The people of Pittsburgh have been drinking lead-contaminated water for too long. This settlement requires aggressive , affordable solutions to protect public health and hold officials accountable to the people they serve… These hard-fought changes would not have...

A better PWSA: Water authority is getting serious about challenges

The PWSA sought PUC’s approval of a 17 percent rate increase for residential customers, evidencing a commitment to infrastructure upgrades that was missing at the agency for many years. The PUC ended up approving the 14 percent increase after receiving input from...