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Some PWSA Customers Report Long Wait Times For Home Lead Test Results

PITTSBURGH (News Radio 1020 KDKA) - Some Pittsburgh Water  & Sewer Authority customers say they've been waiting too long to find out how much lead is in their drinking water.

The authority offers a free home testing kit, wherein customers mail in samples from their faucets.  In July, KDKA reported that five percent of PWSA customers had unacceptable levels of lead in their drinking water.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith says she's heard numerous complaints from her district residents regarding testing results, the testing procedure, and the time it has taken for results to be delivered.

"I've heard so many different things in terms of PWSA, it's difficult to keep track of all the concerns and complaints," Ms. Kail-Smith told KDKA's James Garrity.

North Point Breeze resident and Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner shares her own struggles with the PWSA lead testing procedure.

Ms. Wagner says she submitted a sample in late August.  By late October, she hadn't received the results.  Her office reached out to the PWSA, who told them that the sample had been lost.

After that, Ms. Wagner says the PWSA provided two additional sample bottles.  She was informed one would be tested in-house and returned in a few days, and the other would be sent to an outside lab.

Ms. Wagner held a news conference December 19th to release the results of an audit of the County Health Department.  In that audit, she criticized the PWSA's lag in returning her results.  Two days later, she says her office received the results.

"Over and over again, I'm hearing results from people whose results had not yet been returned," Ms. Wagner says.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman and PWSA Board Member Deborah Gross say's she's also heard complaints, but not as many as in the past.

"I believe the response on the PWSA's part is improving," Ms. Gross says.  "I've heard people say they've had a response in as short as a week, whereas months ago, it could have [taken] months."

A PWSA spokesman says that the existing testing process, established in September, is an improvement from the prior one.  He suggests that customers that have been waiting more than four weeks for their test results should call or email the PWSA.

In terms of test accuracy, the spokesman says the authority has confidence in the contracted professional labs that test water on their behalf.  If a result seems out of the ordinary, he says they'll reach out to customers to determine where the testing went wrong.

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