Peoples CEO proposes creating partnership to improve water quality

July 03–Peoples Natural Gas President and CEO Morgan O’Brien wants to develop a public-private partnership that he said would spend more than $1 billion to improve the Pittsburgh region’s water quality.

The partnership would include a newly created subsidiary of O’Brien’s company called Peoples Water and Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. Any other water authorities in Allegheny County would be invited to join, O’Brien said.

The centerpiece of O’Brien’s plan, detailed in an open letter posted online Tuesday , would be building a new $350 million water treatment facility along the Allegheny River in O’Hara that would run on solar and hydroelectric power.

It would replace all PWSA reservoirs water treatment facilities.

Old water and gas lines would be replaced under O’Brien’s plan.

O’Brien said “hundreds of new, family-sustaining jobs” would be created to build and operate the proposed water filtration system, and Peoples aims for one of every three new hires to be African American.

The letter also promises no rate increases for three years and said the plan includes building a new riverfront park.

PWSA is beset with problems, including lead contamination in drinking water, chronic water main breaks and overwhelming debt.

State lawmakers last year passed legislation to place PWSA for a first time under the oversight of the state Public Utility Commission, which typically regulates utilities but not municipal authorities. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto appointed a panel last year to come up with recommendations to address the authority’s problems.

Peduto and other officials, including City Councilwoman and PWSA board member Deb Gross, have said they oppose proposals to privatize the water and sewer system.

Peoples Water plans to hold public meetings across the region in the coming weeks to share more details about the proposal, O’Brien said. People can also receive email updates about the project .

This story will be updated.

This article provided by NewsEdge.