13 December 2008
By Judy Kroeger
Recent rain and snow will help improve the quality of water drawn from the Monongahela River because additional precipitation will reduce total dissolved solids counts, which have recently exceeded Department of Environmental Protection limits.
According to a statement issued by the DEP, total dissolved solids, or TDS, "are not considered a major human health risk." The DEP considers TDS a secondary contaminant, which affects taste or odor of water.
TDS consists of minerals such as calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium.
Pennsylvania American customers in the Connellsville area receive their water from the Youghiogheny River, which has not been affected by TDS increases.
Pennsylvania American Water sent a letter and a list of questions and answers to municipalities where their 86,000 customers who receive water from the Monongahela River live.
The customers are in portions of Fayette, southern Allegheny and Washington counties. North Union Township is one of the municipalities. Supervisors this week read the Pennsylvania American letter during its monthly meeting.
The customers will receive the information about total dissolved solids with their water bill.
Pennsylvania American Water said in a statement, "consumers with concerns use bottled water for drinking and preparing food until the exceedance is eliminated. Our water plants do not have treatment to remove TDS from the Monongahela River source."
TDS can cause spots on faucets, leave spots or calcium deposits on glasses or plates washed in a dishwater, cause a bitter or salty taste and cause slight cloudiness when water is heated for cooking or frozen for ice cubes.
"This condition is also known as hard water," said Gary Lobaugh, external affairs manager at Pennsylvania American Water. "It's just something we don't have to deal with in this region very often. I want to stress, this does not pose any threat to human health. We've dealt with it since mid-October with increased customer concern. We haven't had a lot of complaints."
The solids are very inconsistently distributed. "Some customers have encountered a bitter or a salty taste," Lobaugh said. "They notice spots, but we've received a very small percentage of complaints."
The Pennsylvania American fact sheet indicates that TDS can be caused by abandoned mine drainage, agricultural run-off, waste water from gas well drilling and discharges from industrial or sewage treatment plants. But the high levels are temporary.
"With recent precipitation events, it's dissolving," said Ron Bargiel, water quality manager with Pennsylvania American. "It's on a trend of reduction if precipitation continues. We've seen a significant reduction. We're one of 11 water providers on the Mon. They're all experiencing this."
"We've seen significant precipitation in the last three weeks," Lobaugh said. "We do around the clock monitoring."
Lobaugh said any customers experiencing problems with their dishwashers or water purification systems as a result of the hard water should contact the manufacturers.
Terry Parrish, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, Pittsburgh, said long-term forecasts predict near normal precipitation for the season, with about seven inches in December, 12 in January, 8.5 in February and eight in March. Annual precipitation in the region is 41 inches, which Parrish said will likely occur.
The Monongahela River will be slightly above 10 feet at Gray's Landing Monday, and is predicted to rise three feet by Thursday.
For more information, log onto Pennsylvania American's web site at www.pawc.com or call customer service at 800-565-7292.
Judy Kroeger can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3538.