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Water bill got you underwater? You may be eligible for discounts in Pittsburgh.

PWSA: After the Crisis
This is a guide to help residents of Pittsburgh navigate discount programs for their water and sewage bills. The information provided covers the four water and sewer utilities in the city. 
Are you eligible for help paying your water and sewage bill? The answer is yes if your income is 150% of the federal poverty level or less. The dollar figure depends on how big your household is. Consult this graphic from the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority [ALCOSAN] website.

As water bills rise, PWSA ramps up efforts to help low-income customers

The average customer in the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority [PWSA] service area spent about 2.7% of their income on water and sewage. The Environmental Protection Agency considers water and sewage bills above 4.5% to be unaffordable. But in a third of the city’s neighborhoods, at least one in every five customers was spending 10% or more of their income on water and sewage, according to PWSA’s own affordability study in 2019.

Betty Foster-Pinkley stands in front of a rain garden that Upstream, an environmental nonprofit, installed in her backyard. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

Some Pittsburgh environmental groups are trying to undo a legacy of neglect by prioritizing projects in underserved communities

When Betty Foster-Pinkley’s mom passed away in 2010, she took over responsibility for the family house in the East Hills. 

The house she and her six siblings grew up in is at the very bottom of Dornbush Street. With a slope of 32%, Dornbush is the second steepest street in Pittsburgh and the eighth steepest in the entire country. During Pittsburgh’s record rainfalls in 2018 and 2019, rainwater flooded Foster-Pinkley’s basement. Her water heater, furnace, air conditioners and some mementos from her children and grandchildren were damaged. She had to pay about $3,000 for replacements and repairs out of her own pocket because it was a natural flood, not a broken pipe that her home insurance would cover. 

The flooding was so bad, she said, it flooded a nearby apartment building and knocked over a wall.

Q&A: Overdoses are peaking again and opioids are only going to get cheaper, one expert explains

Early data from Overdose Free PA confirms that 2020 will be at least the second most deadly year for overdose deaths in Allegheny County ever. There are already 687 confirmed deaths, at least an 18% increase from the year before, and the second year of increased overdose deaths in a row. It takes months to confirm overdose deaths so these numbers are likely to increase. Jonathan Caulkins, a professor of operations research and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, has become one of the country’s leading experts on the economics of the opioid epidemic. In a paper published in February, Caulkins argues that the price of opioids is likely to keep dropping because of how fentanyl is produced.

Photos of mayoral candidates Mayor Bill Peduto, Ed Gainey, Tony Moreno and Mike Thompson superimposed on a graphic image of covid-19 illustrations.

Pittsburgh’s mayoral candidates debate COVID and how the city should transition out of the pandemic

PublicSource asked several questions about how Pittsburgh should move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic in wide-ranging interviews between April 6-12 with the city’s four Democratic mayoral candidates. They each had a different take on when to get vaccinated, how to bring back the city’s workforce and whether to close streets to provide more outdoor seating.

Buildings in downtown Pittsburgh can be seen from Hays Woods. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Analysis: Which Pittsburgh mayoral candidate aligns with your environmental beliefs?

Pittsburgh has committed to investing billions of dollars in the coming decade to clean up its rivers and address persistent air quality challenges and increasingly heavy rains due to climate change. The next mayor of Pittsburgh could play an outsized role in determining how these problems are tackled, especially if Congress passes a new $2 trillion infrastructure package. To help our readers understand where exactly the mayoral candidates stand on issues affecting the environment, our lead environment and health reporter, Oliver Morrison, parsed through their answers from individual interviews to help readers see what their real differences are and what kind of policies they may pursue as mayor. You can read their answers or listen to the interviews in full, here or listen to a radio version of the piece produced with The Allegheny Front below. Allegheny Front · Where Pittsburgh's mayoral candidates stand on the environment
Mayor Bill Peduto
State Rep. Ed Gainey
Tony Moreno
Mike Thompson
Mayor Bill Peduto

Peduto enjoys the advantages and disadvantages of incumbency.

Clockwise from top left: State Rep. Ed Gainey, Tony Moreno, Mike Thompson, Mayor Bill Peduto.

Q&A: Pittsburgh’s mayoral candidates debate the city’s environmental challenges

Will the City of Pittsburgh revoke its parks tax? Spend more on green infrastructure to confront flooding and climate change? And should the mayor of Pittsburgh take a stand on issues that go beyond city limits, like fracking and green energy? Although the first mayoral debates focused on issues like affordable housing and policing, the four candidates offer sharply different records and plans for the city’s environmental future. PublicSource asked how the candidates would address the many environmental challenges that one would face as mayor. 

We asked the same questions to contrast their ideas and then edited down the answers to highlight their most substantial proposals and biggest areas of disagreement. 

[If you want to hear the candidates’ full answers, listen to the wide-ranging interviews here.]

Listen to the interviews

Oliver Morrison is PublicSource’s environment and health reporter.