City controller warns against privatization of Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority

By Bob Mayo

City controller Michael Lamb has been a critic of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) in the past, but now he’s giving it some credit for progress and warning against any proposals to privatize it.

Lamb said in a news conference Thursday that the PWSA “compliance plan” sent to the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) shows progress and that action is being taken in past problem areas. Those include customer service, lead line replacement, finances and improving operations.

Soon, the PWSA will reveal its 12-year plan for its infrastructure needs. Mayor Bill Peduto says once the plan is released and approved, he’ll then open to hear competing proposals for any public-private partnerships with the PWSA.

Peduto is against full privatization Lamb agrees.

“I’m not saying private companies can’t be involved. I think there are a lot of ways private companies can be involved. We contract with private companies all the time for their expertise on these kinds of things. What has to be removed from the table quickly. What can be on the table for about a minute, is the idea of losing control of this asset,” Lamb said.

“What we want to do is see how PWSA is proposing what they’ll be able to do to provide safe drinking water for the next 50 years, and then allow a competition on a global basis to happen, to see if anyone could do it better,” Peduto said earlier on Thursday.

The water authority is expected to release its 12-year plan for long-term infrastructure improvements later this month.

A representative of the PUC provided Pittsburgh’s Action News with this timeline for action on the PWSA compliance plan:

· The plans will be formally published in the PA bulletin on Saturday, Oct 13.

· Stakeholder/public comment is due by Nov. 2.

· The PUC staff report/analysis is due by Nov. 27.

¬∑ Also on Nov. 27, the case will be referred to the PUC’s office of administrative law judge (ALJ) to address any disputes.

· ALJ has up to eight months to conduct proceedings and make a recommendation to the commission.

· A final commission decision is due by Nov. 30, 2019.