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PWSA approves moratorium on winter water shutoffs for income-eligible customers

November 15, 2018

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority board of directors Friday for a second straight year unanimously approved a moratorium on winter water shutoffs for needy residential customers who have not paid their bills.

The moratorium from Dec. 1 through March 31 is restricted to income eligible residents who do not exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

The cap would be $61,500 for a family of four. PWSA supplies water to about 300,000 people in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region.

PWSA Director Deb Gross, who also serves on Pittsburgh City Council, said last year’s moratorium administered through the Dollar Energy Fund prevented shutoffs for 2,152 customers.

“It goes above and beyond what the PUC requirements are for winter moratoriums on shutoffs,” Gross said. “The PUC requires that it be applied to renters and applied to (customers) who have steam heat. The PWSA winter shutoff moratorium applied also to low-income residents in the city of Pittsburgh regardless of whether they were renters, regardless of whether they have steam heat.”

The board enacted the moratorium for the first time in 2017.

In unrelated business, board members approved payment of a $5,000 fine to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for installing mixing tanks at the authority waterworks in Aspinwall without a DEP construction permit.

Board member Jim Turner, who voted against the approval, said he objected on principal.

“We applied for the permit on May 2,” he said. “We waited more than four weeks for approval, which didn’t come, so we went ahead and began using what they wanted us to use, and then they fined us for the fact that we did it before they gave the final approval, which they subsequently did on June 14,” he said. “Besides those circumstances being annoying, it bothers me our rate payers will pay for this fine that will be then be used by DEP for their own operations or anywhere else in the state.”

PWSA Executive Director Bob Weimar said he would work with staff to make sure DEP permitting is in place before they make future upgrades.

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