Util­ity will charge Val­ley cus­tomers to re­place lead pipes

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By An­thony Sala­m­one

Is a lead pipe bring­ing wa­ter into your home?

If you are a Penn­syl­va­nia Amer­i­can Wa­ter Co. cus­tomer, you could be el­i­gi­ble for a re­place­ment line.

State reg­u­la­tors voted 4-0 on Thurs­day in Harrisburg to let the util­ity, which sells wa­ter in Northamp­ton and Mon­roe coun­ties, spend about $6 mil­lion per year to re­place cus­tomers’ lead ser­vice lines.

The util­ity will re­cover the cost with a monthly 10-cent sur­charge on ev­ery cus­tomer’s bill.

The lead-pipe sur­charge comes on top of a nearly 10% rate in­crease the util­ity re­ceived in late 2017 that gen­er­ated $62 mil­lion statewide.

The Pub­lic Util­ity Com­mis­sion said cus­tomers’ lines would re­main their re­spon­si­bil­ity, and they would have to ap­prove plans by Penn­syl­va­nia Amer­i­can to re­place the lines. The util­ity es­ti­mates 18,000 of its 656,000 cus­tomers have lead pipes con­nect­ing their houses to wa­ter mains.

Lead pipes have been linked to el­e­vated lev­els of the me­tal in drink­ing wa­ter. Util­i­ties and reg­u­la­tors have been ad­dress­ing such con­cerns since the pub­lic-health cri­sis in Flint, Michi­gan, and else­where, most re­cently Ne­wark,

SER­VICE TER­RI­TORY

New Jer­sey.

Penn­syl­va­nia Amer­i­can has said it will re­place lead lines it en­coun­ters when it re­places wa­ter mains. It will also swap lines at a cus­tomer’s re­quest, though it wants to group re­quests so it can com­plete them as a sin­gle pro­ject. The util­ity says it costs about $3,500 to re­place a sin­gle lat­eral line.

Com­pany spokes­woman Laura Martin said Penn­syl­va­nia Amer­i­can is work­ing on fi­nal de­vel­op­ment of the re­place­ment pro­gram and will no­tify cus­tomers in early 2020 be­fore it be­gins charg­ing them.

“Penn­syl­va­nia Amer­i­can Wa­ter be­lieves that re­plac­ing the cus­tomerowned por­tions of lead ser­vice lines through this pro­gram is a rea­son­able, cost-ef­fec­tive way to avoid­ing cus­tomer health and safety con­cerns associated with par­tial lead ser­vice line re­place­ments,” Martin said.

The PUC said Penn­syl­va­nia Amer­i­can will:

Pro­vide a two-year war­ranty on re­place­ment work.

Re­im­burse cus­tomers who re­cently switched lead-based pipes.

En­gage in “ap­pro­pri­ate cus­tomer out­reach” about the re­place­ment pro­gram, and grant an un­spec­i­fied as­sis­tance to qual­i­fied, low-in­come cus­tomers.

If a cus­tomer doesn’t agree to the re­place­ment, the util­ity will re­place its por­tion of the lead-based pipe.

Penn­syl­va­nia Amer­i­can pro­posed in 2017 to spread out the line-re­place­ment cost. But a de­ci­sion was post­poned, and Thurs­day’s PUC move fol­lowed a 2018 state law that re­quires util­i­ties to ac­cel­er­ate the re­place­ment of old wa­ter and waste­water pipes that could lead to pub­lic health risks.

A sub­sidiary of pub­licly owned Amer­i­can Wa­ter Works, Penn­syl­va­nia Amer­i­can serves 13,500 cus­tomers in 15 Northamp­ton County com­mu­ni­ties and two south­ern Mon­roe County town­ships, Hamil­ton and Ross. Its Penn­syl­va­nia ser­vice ter­ri­tory cov­ers por­tions of 36 coun­ties.

Morn­ing Call re­porter An­thony Sala­m­one can be reached at 610-820-6694 or asala­m­[email protected]

SETH PERLMAN/FILE/AP

Penn­syl­va­nia Amer­i­can Wa­ter has won state ap­proval to re­place cus­tomer-owned lead pipes at $6 mil­lion per year.

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