By Associated Press - Friday, January 22, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority started using a new chemical Thursday that officials say should make water less corrosive and prevent lead from seeping into the water supply.

The authority switched from caustic soda to soda ash, according to spokesman Brendan Schubert. The decision was weeks in the making and correlates with, but wasn’t prompted by the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

“We’re using the public water supply to prevent (lead) leaching from people’s private plumbing,” the authority’s executive director, James Good, told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The level of lead in Pittsburgh’s water has increased from 2 parts per billion in 1999 to 14.7 in 2013, according to authority water quality reports. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s rules require water systems to control corrosion when lead appears in excess of 15 parts per billion in more than 10 percent of customer samples.

“People aren’t in danger. The lead levels are very low,” Good said. “The drinking water regulations are written with very large safety barriers in mind.”

Lead levels will again be tested between June 1 and Sept. 30 of this year, officials said.

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