Republican Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai is upset as Pittsburgh tries to provide residents with clean drinking water.
Thanks to a mix of state grants and loans, Pittsburgh is able to accelerate progress on replacing lead pipes throughout the city, helping ensure residents have clean, safe water to drink.
While most public officials would welcome the news of clean water, Republican Mike Turzai, currently Pennsylvania’s Speaker of the House, was outraged.
Turzai fumed, calling the state funds a “bailout,” even as the majority of funds come in the form of loans that must be paid back.
After high levels of lead were detected in homes in 2016, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) began a state-mandated effort to replace seven percent of lead pipes each year. The addition of state money will allow the agency to accelerate their efforts
The $49 million package will pay for replacing lead pipes for nearly 3,000 residential connections in 2019, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The funding “includes a $13.7 million grant and a $35.4 million loan” to PWSA, and the loan will be paid back to the state with interest.
Without offering any alternative to lead-ridden water, Turzai lashed out at PWSA, calling the agency mismanaged and lamenting that the project to provide clean water to thousands of families diverts “much-needed money from water and sewer projects across the state.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, even low levels of lead in water is “linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells.”
But for Turzai, the state stepping up to help a city trying to prevent these devastating consequences is something to be scorned rather than celebrated.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was ecstatic about the news, saying the funding “will have positive impacts for decades to come.”
Turzai’s outburst comes as he is running in a tight re-election race against Democratic challenger Emily Skopov. Even though Turzai won comfortably in 2016, recent polling shows Skopov trailing by only a few points.
Coming out in opposition to clean water is an unusual strategy for a politician, especially only weeks before Election Day.