Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is currently struggling to manage and improve its aging water system, with a focus on elevated lead levels for many customers. The issue is well covered in the local media, and several steps are being taken or proposed for remediating lead in Pittsburgh's tap water. Under federal and state regulatory action and pressure from residents, the city is at a critical decision point for addressing the issue of lead in its water. This Perspective reviews the history and recent developments related to the use of lead in Pittsburgh's water system and the policy options for lead remediation currently being weighed by local decisionmakers.
We review the costs, regulatory barriers, and feasibility of the various options under consideration, including the City of Pittsburgh's new Safe Water Program and multiple pipe replacement options. We conclude with recommendations, including ensuring optimal pipe corrosion control and filtering in the immediate term and pursuing innovations from other cities to reduce the public and private costs of the permanent solution of full lead service line replacement.
This project is a RAND Venture. It was made possible by a generous gift by John M. Cazier to the Pardee RAND Graduate School, through which the John and Carol Cazier Initiative for Energy and Environmental Sustainability was established in 2014.
The research was conducted by the Infrastructure Resilience and Environmental Policy Program within RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment.
This commentary is part of the RAND Corporation Expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.
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