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EWRI Pittsburgh Section Highlight

05 Feb 2020 4:50 PM | Anonymous

The Pittsburgh Section EWRI has been recognized by national with the 2020 Outstanding Institute Chapter Award!  The award will be presented to the Chapter Institute during the World Environmental & Water Resources Congress 2020 in Henderson, Nevada, held on May 18, 2020.  The Pittsburgh EWRI chapter has completed several outstanding events during 2019 which earned them this recognition.  One such recent successful event brought together students and working professionals on the topic of orthophosphate in drinking water.

Undergraduate, graduate students and faculty members from local universities and professional engineers, more than 45 people in total, enjoyed a fructiferous evening at the Roland’s Seafood Grill on November 20th, 2019. The evening featured a keynote presentation from Dr. Sarah Haig, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and Ronal Bargiel, Chief of Water Quality at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, who are collaboratively working on a project to understand the impacts on urban stream health of controlling lead in drinking water with orthophosphate.

The joint presentation delved into the history of orthophosphates in water treatment, as well as the chemistry behind orthophosphate treatment. Orthophosphate is a common corrosion inhibitor used by water suppliers to prevent lead pipes from leaching. When orthophosphate is added to a water source, it reacts with lead to create a mineral-like crust inside of the lead pipe. This crust acts as a coating which prevents further lead corrosion.  Ron Bargiel provided an in depth summary of PWSA’s efforts to reduce lead levels in tap water via their orthophosphate program that started in 2019.  Dr. Haig provided a summary of her current research into assessing the ecosystem impacts of drinking water orthophosphate addition. She provided her preliminary research results. You can learn more about Dr. Haig’s research at

The event also provided networking opportunities among the attendees in a casual environment, not only between students and working local professionals, but students from different universities also had a chance to connect.  These types of networking opportunities strengthen the engineering community in our region and is one of the many benefits that ASCE Institute membership offers.

During the presentation, there were multiple questions from the audience and engaged discussions that brought the audience even closer and enhanced the experience of students and engineers likewise.

By Tania Lopez-Cantu

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