A True Partnership: How Peoples Water Will Revolutionize Our Region
Earlier this year, we announced our proposal to create a partnership with water authorities in Allegheny County. For customers across these municipalities, the Peoples Water partnership will improve the quality and safety of your water, provide better customer service, and keep your rates low.
Our goal is to make this a true public-private partnership because, at the end of the day, this is about what’s best for you. It’s about your well-being. It’s about more opportunities for you and your family. And it’s about the healthy, fair progress of this region. We want to help improve our region’s water system because it’s the right thing to do for our customers.
For over 130 years, customer safety has always been our number-one priority. And when it comes to the safety of our water, there’s not a minute to lose. In Pittsburgh alone, we have hundreds of employees and thousands of customers. It’s our responsibility to help municipalities overcome current obstacles with the water system, but to also prepare for future challenges. So we have to think beyond just solving today’s problems. We have to empower people. By supporting Peoples Water, you’re supporting trade unions, renewable energy, and workforce development. You’re supporting a future that is for everyone.
As this process moves forward, we’re continuing to listen to municipalities, local leaders, and customers across the region to make sure this partnership will support the needs of each municipality while best serving their customers. We want to provide you with an update, so you’re aware of all of the pieces involved in our plan.
So, how will this partnership work?
Under the new umbrella of Peoples Water, we will immediately infuse over $1 billion into Allegheny County infrastructure to:
Build a new state-of-the-art water treatment facility powered by 100% renewable energy
Remove all lead customer-owned service lines on an accelerated schedule
Modernize the pipeline infrastructure in Allegheny County to address infrastructure issues and encourage future economic development
Upgrade all Peoples Water customers to our state-of-the-art billing system and meter technology to ensure exceptional customer service.
How will this benefit Peoples Water customers?
No more lead. We’ll replace all customer lead lines on an expedited schedule, devoting more crews and resources to fix the problem. When it comes to the health and safety of you and your family, we know that those extra days, months, and years truly matter. And we’re determined to put your well-being first.
Healthier water with fewer chemicals. Our new system of membranes will now catch particles even 10% smaller than those currently captured. These membranes will prevent parasites like giardia from reaching your drinking water, versus current treatments that require additional chemicals. We will also implement a new UV disinfection technique, which further reduces the number of chemicals used and cuts down on harmful chlorine byproducts. You shouldn’t have to worry about buying bottled water or filters. And with Peoples Water, you won’t have to.
Less disruption. By combining gas and water line replacements, we can lower the combined cost of projects by up to 50%, proactively make repairs, and dramatically reduce the inconvenience to residents. The fewer “no parking” signs, the better.
Lower rates. Currently in Pittsburgh, replacing a pipeline and restoring the street can easily cost $2 million per mile. And more efficient construction means lower rates for customers. We have committed to freezing rates for three years, and we anticipate they will gradually decrease after that period as more municipalities join the partnership. Extra savings each month can make all of the difference for our customers, so we want to put that cash back in your pocket where it belongs.
World-class customer service. Our customer service center answers 83% of our calls in less than 30 seconds. And over the past three years, we’ve met 99.9% of our customer appointment windows. Day in and day out, we work hard to make lives better. We will bring that same dedication to Peoples Water customers.
Customer support programs. We currently offer assistance to residents up to 200% of the poverty level. Customers pay what they can afford, instead of what they consume. And our partnerships with local community and health organizations allow us to provide holistic solutions for families in need.
How will this plan help the environment?
Collaborating with the University of Pittsburgh’s Energy Institute and the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, we will construct a water treatment facility powered by 100% renewable energy. This LEED Gold facility will be located in O’Hara Township, and will be powered entirely by solar and hydroelectric power.
Our new sustainable water processing system will be one of only five in the world using this technology, keeping company with Sydney, Los Angeles, New York, and Vancouver. Switching customers over to a 100% renewable plant will provide an immediate and significant reduction in the City of Pittsburgh’s carbon footprint.
Pipeline replacement and street restoration will also be designed to minimize stormwater runoff. Plus, only digging up the street once instead of twice means running large equipment for half the time. With hundreds of ongoing projects, that adds up!
What are the benefits to the region?
This plan will create thousands of jobs and infuse millions of dollars into the local economy. And we will do it all with a local workforce and local materials.
We will uphold the highest commitment to workforce diversity and inclusion. One of every three hires will be a minority resident living in the City of Pittsburgh. We will also forge new partnerships with minority small businesses on procurement, and we will require contractors to employ and train minority residents, including union apprenticeship programs. Already, local trade unions have signed on to support the Peoples Water partnership.
We also will start by working in neighborhoods that have seen less investment in the past, because everyone who lives in this region deserves the same level of service. We’ll partner with groups like the Urban League and the United Way to ensure that our plan meets the needs of all residents.
We’re experienced. We brought Equitable Gas on board in 2013, and over the past five years, we’ve never raised the rates of those customers. We’re also not new to public-private partnerships. In fact, we’ve partnered with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority before in areas like Lawrenceville to replace our pipelines at the same time, which minimized the disruption, lowered the cost and environmental impact, and boosted efficiency.
We’re local. We also believe that keeping and creating local jobs is our responsibility to the region. When Dominion sold Peoples Natural Gas in 2010, Peoples began rebuilding from the ground up. And in less than a decade, we’ve gone from 350 employees to over 1,300, including a call center of over 150 employees right on the North Shore.
We want to be held accountable. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) will have full oversight of Peoples Water, just as they maintain oversight of Peoples today. We also welcome public input. As this process moves forward, we will be hosting community meetings across City Council Districts, and our final plan will incorporate public input and address public concerns.
We’re making tremendous progress. In 2015, we launched a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University and the Environmental Defense Fund to identify methane emissions along our pipelines and prioritize repairs in an aggressive pipeline replacement program. Last year, we replaced over 100 miles of pipeline; in 2018, we’ve already replaced over 100 miles in the City of Pittsburgh alone. Peoples Water will also be open about any issues, so we can work with municipalities to come up with the best solution—and then make it happen.
Our region was built by the hard work, ingenuity, and enthusiasm of its people. We have long since rounded the corner from steel town to innovation hub, and we’re gaining more momentum every day.
So we’re asking you to put your trust in us, the company that has served you for generations. We don’t just have the experience to do this job—we have the experience to do this job well. We believe in this partnership, and we’re here for the long haul. We’re not a city of idle progress, but dramatic, beautiful changes.
We hope that you’ll join us in revolutionizing our region.