Lead Levels Hit 20-Year Low
Last week, I was pleased to join City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA) Executive Director Will Pickering and Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa at a socially distanced press conference in Bloomfield to talk about the progress being made against lead contamination.
The PWSA and City announced last week that the most recent round of regulatory compliance testing completed by the PWSA resulted in a 90th percentile lead level of 5.1 parts per billion (ppb). These samples collected from 158 homes with lead service lines or plumbing are the lowest levels in recent history, demonstrating the effectiveness of adding orthophosphate to PWSA’s water treatment process.
The 90th percentile result of 5.1 ppb is approximately 10 ppb below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) lead action level of 15 ppb. This is PWSA’s lowest lead testing result in over 20 years and the second consecutive round of testing below the action level.
In April 2019, the PWSA began adding orthophosphate to reduce lead levels in drinking water while continuing to replace thousands of lead service lines. Orthophosphate is a food-grade additive that forms a protective layer inside of lead service lines, creating a barrier between the lead pipes and the water flowing through them. It is approved by the EPA and successfully used in water systems across the world. Orthophosphate was selected by PWSA and approved by DEP after an extensive, year-long study of treatment alternatives.
The 90th percentile is not an average of the presence of lead across PWSA’s water system, but rather a calculation to determine if 10 percent of homes with lead service lines or plumbing that were sampled exceeded the lead action level. Water utilities like PWSA that have exceeded the 15-ppb threshold, are required to complete two, six-month rounds of testing at or below the action level to bring its water distribution system back into compliance. This round, as well as the testing completed in December 2019, both came under the action level.
Now that PWSA has had two consecutive rounds of testing below state and federal action levels, they are no longer required by law to replace seven percent of the lead service lines in their system each year. However, they are continuing to conduct aggressive water quality testing and work towards replacing all lead service lines by 2026.
Additionally, as part of the neighborhood-based Lead Service Line Replacement Program that PWSA implemented in 2018, they have replaced over 6,000 public lead lines and more than 4,600 private lead lines at a cost of $90 million. This includes $49 million in state funding assistance provided by PENNVEST for the 2019 program, which included a $13.7 million grant and a $35.4 million low-interest loan that I was pleased to help secure.
It’s good to see the progress being made as it relates to replacing lead lines as the PWSA has come a long way in a short amount of time. When we realized the magnitude of the work PWSA would need to conduct back in 2017, I authored legislation that was enacted to help fund these repairs. This legislation allowed municipalities and municipal authorities, like the PWSA, to make public funds available to replace or repair contaminated private water lines when they pose a threat to public health or safety.
This collaborative effort between the state, City of Pittsburgh and PWSA are making customers safer, are dealing with lead issues more efficiently, and have reduced the burden placed on ratepayers. There is still a lot of work to do but all parties involved can be proud of the progress that has been made in a very short amount of time.
Did You Know…
Did you know that since June 2016, the PWSA has replaced more than 7,400 public lead service lines and more than 4,700 private lead service lines throughout the City of Pittsburgh?
Racial Equity Solutions Tour
The Senate Democrats have started our statewide Racial Equity Solutions Tour. My colleagues and I will be having meaningful conversations with local advocates, community leaders and stakeholders across Pennsylvania. We feel that this is an important step in our caucus’ efforts to bring tangible changes to end the systematic racism that plagues our commonwealth and our nation.
Last week was the “first stop” on our solutions tour where my fellow democratic senators and I heard various viewpoints from Van Jones (CNN political contributor), Solomon Jones (WURD Radio Host and advocate for police reform), Kenny Duncan (celebrity barber and advocate for economic freedom) and Jenna Moll (Justice Action Network). Some things that were highlighted included police actions without consequences, less incarceration for nonviolent acts, better funding for schools that have a predominantly low-income students and economic stability and financial freedom.
I look forward to participating in the future events of the tour to get a better understanding of the changes that are needed in our communities.
State Assistance Available with Federal Unemployment Benefit Ending
With the additional $600 federal unemployment benefit ending this past Saturday, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) and Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) are reminding Pennsylvanians that other state programs are available. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which funded the extra $600 in unemployment compensation each week, ended July 25.
DHS’ programs are designed to help eligible Pennsylvanians who have lost income or employment meet essential needs until they are able to start work again. Public assistance programs help ensure that individuals and families can access health care, have enough food to eat, and can pay utilities – things everyone needs to stay healthy and safe and succeed in the workforce.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
- Child Care Works (CCW) subsidized child care; and,
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
DHS has also received approval to administer benefits created specifically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Recovery Crisis Program, which provides assistance for home energy bills, helping ensure continuity of utility and other energy services. This program will run through August 31, 2020
Pennsylvanians who have experienced a change in income or job loss, regardless of its relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, can apply for benefits online at any time at www.compass.state.pa.us.
Visit the Resources for Pennsylvanians page at www.pa.gov to also find:
- Mental health resources;
- Financial help;
- Mortgage and rent information;
- Food assistance, and more.
In addition to these programs, PA CareerLink offices are also providing virtual services to help connect businesses with job seekers and assist with résumés, career development activities and more.
Some of PA CareerLink’s virtual services include:
- Adult education classes
- All employer services
- Career counseling
- Eligibility determination for Workforce Innovation programs and service
- Job search assistance
- On-the-Job Training programs
- Résumé assistance
- Virtual workshops
- Youth Programming and work readiness services
For more information, visit www.pacareerlink.pa.gov.
While the FPUC program may end, eligible claimants waiting for a payment from claim weeks April 4 through July 25 will receive those payments.
Pennsylvania Hazard Pay Grant Program Open Through Friday
I want to remind frontline workers about the Hazard Pay Grant Program, which is accepting applications through this Friday!
As part of Act 2A of 2020, $50 million was appropriated from CARES Act funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Economic & Community Development (DCED) to provide Hazard Pay for frontline workers.
Eligible applicants will apply on behalf of the frontline workers in the listed industries. An applicant who is awarded hazard pay will need to provide documentation, including pay stubs, to show that the payments were made to the employees. Based off the guidelines, it is anticipated that payments will begin to show up in paychecks within two weeks of the application period closing.
Eligible applicants/industries include the following:
Healthcare and Social Assistance:
- Ambulatory and home health care services
- Nursing and residential care facilities
- Child day care
- Individual and family services
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Community food and housing
- Emergency and other relief services
Transit and Ground Passenger Transportation
- Bus and transit systems
- Generalized and specialized freight trucking
- Animal food
- Grain and oilseed milling
- Sugar/confectionery product
- Fruit/vegetable preserving
- Dairy product
- Animal slaughter and processing
- Seafood preparation and packaging
- Bakers and tortilla
- Other food manufacturing
Food Retail Facilities
- Grocery and convenience stores
- Specialty food stores
Hazard pay will be made to full-time and part-time employees earning less than $20 an hour, excluding fringe benefits and overtime, as a direct increase in their pay. The direct increase in pay for a frontline worker will be $3.00 per hour for ten-weeks for a total of $1,200. No one company may receive more than $3 million. The program will not be first come, first served. Rather priority will be given to risk of exposure by industry, location and prevalence of COVID-19 and average hourly wage paid by employer.
To apply, please visit www.dced.pa.gov.
Cultural & Museum Preservation Grant Program – Application Deadline Friday!
The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) recently approved the program guidelines for the COVID-19 Cultural and Museum Preservation Grant Program, which is funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program provides $20 million in grant funding for cultural organizations and museums to offset lost revenue caused by the COVID-10 pandemic and the resulting shutdown order and will be administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
Eligible cultural organizations or museums must be one of the following categories to be eligible for funding through the COVID-19 Cultural and Museum Preservation Grant Program:
- Children’s Museum
- General Museum with at least two equally significant disciplines
- History Museum or Historical Site
- Military or Maritime Museum
- Natural History Museum
- Accredited Zoo
- Science and Technology Center
- Art Museum
- Performing Arts Organization
The minimum amount of grant funding will be $25,000 to a maximum of $500,000. Funds may be used to offset lost revenue for eligible cultural organizations and museums that were subject to closure by the proclamation of disaster emergency issued by the Governor on March 6, 2020, and any renewal of the state of disaster emergency and that experienced a loss of revenue related to the closure. Funds cannot be used to offset revenue which has already been offset from other sources, including philanthropic and federal, state and local government sources. Additional eligibility requirements and program details can be found in the program guidelines.
Applications will be accepted online through this Friday. More information about the Commonwealth Financing Authority can be found on the Department of Community & Economic Development website.
PennDOT Extends Expiration Dates on Driver Licenses, ID Cards, and Learner’s Permits
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced last week that expiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards, and learner’s permits, will be extended for Pennsylvania residents in response to statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Effective July 23, expiration dates for driver licenses, photo ID cards and learner's permits scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 through August 31, 2020, have been extended until August 31, 2020. These extensions are in addition to those announced on June 25.
A camera card is considered a driver's license, so it is covered by the same terms and conditions extending other driver's license products. Camera cards with expiration dates within this timeframe are also extended through August 31, 2020.
Additionally, limited services are available at some Driver License and Photo License Centers. For a list of open driver license and photo license centers and the services provided, as well as their hours of operation, please visit www.dmv.pa.gov.
Customers may continue to complete various transactions and access multiple resources online at www.dmv.pa.gov. Driver and vehicle online services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and include driver's license, photo ID and vehicle registration renewals; driver-history services; changes of address; driver license and vehicle registration restoration letters; ability to pay driver license or vehicle insurance restoration fee; driver license and photo ID duplicates; and schedule a driver’s exam. There are no additional fees for using online services.
Extreme Heat Can Cause Dangerous Health Conditions in Children, Infants and Pets
As hot summer weather continues across the state, the Pennsylvania Department of Health encourages all Pennsylvanians to be aware of the dangerous impacts extreme heat can have on themselves and their neighbors, especially the elderly and other vulnerable populations.
There are several groups of people who are at-risk of developing heat-related health conditions during high temperatures. Those groups include infants and young children, people 65 years of age and older, people with chronic medical conditions, and those who must work outdoors. It is important to make sure these groups are monitored on hot days.
Extremely hot weather can make you sick, and extreme heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States each year.
Remember to wear:
- Lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing;
- A hat or visor;
- Sunglasses; and
- SPF 30 or higher sunscreen with broad spectrum coverage (reapply as necessary).
To stay hydrated:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day – do not wait until you are thirsty.
- Outdoor workers should drink between two and four cups of water every hour.
- Avoid consuming caffeinated, alcoholic, or sugary beverages.
- Replace salt lost from sweating by drinking fruit juice or sports drinks.
To safely exercise:
- Limit outdoor exercise and stay indoors in air conditioning on hot days.
- Exercise early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest part of the day. (11 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
- Pace yourself when you run, walk, or otherwise exert your body.
To protect others:
- Never leave children, older adults, or pets in a vehicle.
- Check on those who may be more at risk of developing health issues from extreme temperatures like:
- Infants and young children
- People ages 65 and older
- People with chronic medical conditions
Another way to help protect others is by wearing your mask to stop the spread of COVID-19. On July 1, Secretary Dr. Levine signed an order mandating mask-wearing. Research shows that mask-wearing reduces risk of infection from COVID-19, while not wearing a mask greatly increases a person’s chances of being infected by this contagious and deadly virus.
Individuals must wear face coverings unless wearing a face covering would create an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task. In general, though, face coverings must be worn, even on warm days, if they do not pose a risk to an individual's health or safety. Mere discomfort is not considered a risk to an individual's health or safety. Face shields are an acceptable alternative to face masks when high temperatures and humidity create unsafe conditions.
In addition to wearing a mask, Pennsylvanians are encouraged to continue to practice social distancing and other preventive measures, including washing your hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning surfaces often, and staying home if you are sick to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
It is also important to know the difference between heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Symptoms of a heat stroke include a high body temperature (above 103°F); red, hot and dry skin, but no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness.
If you think someone is having a heat stroke, it is important to first call 9-1-1. After calling for help, get the person to a shady area and quickly cool them down by putting them in a tub of cool water or spraying them with a garden hose. You should not give the victim any fluids, including water, to drink.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, fainting, and nausea or vomiting.
Help the person cool off and seek medical attention if symptoms are severe, symptoms last more than one hour, or the victim has heart problems or high blood pressure.
For more information on how to deal with the heat and other natural disasters, please visit www.health.pa.gov.
Port Authority Seeks Public Input
The Port Authority of Allegheny County is seeking public input about the future of transit in our region as part of NEXTransit, the agency’s recently-launched long-range planning effort.
NEXTransit will help inform where service should go, who it should serve, when it should operate and what projects should be given priority over the next 25 years.
Port Authority set up six online meetings and there are four meetings remaining:
- Thursday, August 6, 2020 at 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
- Tuesday, August 25, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Meetings can be accessed by visiting https://nextransit.network/series1. Participants may also call in by dialing 855-925-2801 and using meeting code 8676.
Residents from communities across Allegheny County are encouraged to attend. Those unable to attend can still participate throughout via in-person community visits and phone-based surveys that will be conducted later this summer.
NEXTransit will help Port Authority prepare for future growth by identifying transit investments that integrate with regional plans and goals and by providing a clear roadmap on where to focus the agency’s energy and resources.
The input Port Authority receives will serve as a blueprint to meet the community’s vision for what public transportation in our region needs to accomplish in the coming decades to ensure residents have access to jobs, housing, healthcare, education and other services.
Port Authority launched NEXTransit on June 1. This community-based plan is being developed through a robust outreach process and conducted in collaboration with partner agencies in addition to public input.
Port Authority encourages community members, businesses and other stakeholders to learn more about NEXTransit and sign up for email alerts at https://nextransit.network/.
AHN Virtual Hiring Information Session
I want to remind any job seekers that Allegheny Health Network (AHN) is holding a Virtual Hiring Information Session this Thursday, July 30 from 1 – 3 p.m. Positions available include: patient registration; dishwashers; telephone operator; housekeepers; food service; front office and more.
Registration for the Virtual Hiring Information Session can be done through the Events tab at www.pacareerlink.pa.gov. For more information please contact Ellen Ashi at 412-697-6667 or email@example.com.
Lawrenceville Neighbors in Need Fund
With support from the Pittsburgh Foundation, Lawrenceville United and Lawrenceville Corporation are offering emergency grants for up to $500 to Lawrenceville residents and small businesses to meet urgent, essential needs.
Any Lawrenceville resident or business owner can click here to apply. For further information, residents can call 412-802-7220 and businesses can call 412-621-1616. For information on how to donate, please click here.
Mayor of the Year
Congratulations to Heidelberg Mayor Ken LaSota on being named the 2020 Pennsylvania Mayor of the Year by the Pennsylvania State Mayors Association (PMSA)! Mayor LaSota has served as Mayor of Heidelberg for 22 years.
The PSMA is the signature professional society for mayors from the 958 boroughs and 56 cities within Pennsylvania. Each year the Association selects a mayor who has had significant impact upon his/her community, is a leader in his/her community, and has had extraordinary accomplishments during his/her tenure, to be named the Mayor of the Year.
Once again, Congratulations Mayor Ken LaSota!
It was on this date in 1945 the United States Senate ratified the United Nations charter. The first United Nations General Assembly, with 51 nations represented, opened in London on Jan. 10, 1946. On Oct. 24, 1949, exactly four years after the United Nations charter went into effect, the cornerstone was laid for the present United Nations headquarters, located in New York City.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
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Harrisburg, PA 17120
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Pittsburgh, PA 15216