Thursday, May 24, 2018

House Committee Hears Testimony On Legislation To Pay For Lead Water Line Replacement

The House Consumer Affairs Committee Wednesday held a hearing on House Bill 2075 (Charlton-R-Delaware) authorizing the replacement of customer-owned lead water line and damaged sewer laterals by water and wastewater systems regulated by the Public Utility Commission (sponsor summary).
Dr. Christopher Crockett, Chief Environmental Officer for Aqua PA, testified in support of the legislation saying it will help replace lead service lines for an estimated 3,000 water customers in their systems.  Crockett pointed to an educational video and other information the company has provided to customers to educate them about this issue.
David Kauffman, PA Chapter National Association of Water Companies & PA American Water, also supported House Bill 2075, adding his company has filed a request with the PUC seeking permission to replace customer-owned lead water service lines for 18,000 customers.
Tanya McCloskey, Acting Consumer Advocate (PUC), supported replacing customer-owned lead service lines, but disagreed with the ratemaking treatment under the bill.  
While she generally supports requests like PA American Water made to replace customer-owned lines, she said there needs to be a sharing of costs between the utility and the customer.  She pointed to a recent settlement with the York Water company as an example.
John Evans, Small Business Advocate (PUC), said he supports the policy goal in House Bill 2075, but suggested ratepayers should not be responsible for the costs for replacing customer-owned sewer laterals because it does not constitute a public health concern.
PUC Commissioner David Sweet said the Commission was not taking a position on the bill, but offered some input on the “technical aspects.”
“The real nub of the issue here,” Commissioner Sweet said, “Is whether you’re going to allow recovery not only of the expense,” but on an ongoing basis for improvements made on non-jurisdictional property. He said that is a policy issue for the Legislature to decide. He noted ratepayer money has been allowed to be used for individual circumstances.
Timothy Schaeffer, DEP Deputy Secretary For Water Programs, provided an overview of the state’s Drinking Water Program and the lead and copper rule regulations designed to prevent heath-threatening levels of lead and copper in drinking water.
He said DEP supports House Bill 2075 as another tool in the long-term effort to solve this problem that may affect as much as 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s housing stock built before the 1950’s.
Schaeffer also pointed to the best practices and tools developed by the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative, a diverse group of public health, water utility, environmental, labor, consumer and housing organizations as very helpful to the process of addressing this difficult issue.
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing on May 23.
For more background on the lead issue, visit DEP’s Lead In Drinking Water webpage and the Department of Health’s Lead Poisoning webpage.
Rep. Robert Godshall (R-Montgomery) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-6428 or sending email to:  Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3525 or sending email to:
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