Washington, PA Observer-Reporter
18 November 2008
By Scott Beveridge, Staff writer
Mineral contaminants have increased in public water supplies drawn from the Monongahela River but are not at a level deemed unhealthy for consumption.
Pennsylvania American Water is continuing to monitor the supply in cooperation with the state Department of Environmental Protection, company spokesman Gary Lobaugh said Monday.
"At this point, the levels do not constitute any health threat ... nothing to be alarmed about," Lobaugh said.
Increased levels of what are known in the business as Total Dissolved Solids were discovered about a month ago after water companies began receiving complaints about hard water. The solids can include phosphates, nitrates, sodium and calcium, and their levels usually increase during times of low flows in the river.
"We are not seeing this as a health issue but certainly an aesthetic issue," DEP spokeswoman Helen Humphreys said.
The agency believes the particles are on the rise because the river is low and abandoned mine drainage continues to enter the Mon. At first, the DEP suspected the problem stemmed from increased water discharges from the many new natural gas drilling operations in the region.
Humphreys said the DEP ordered water treatment plants to greatly reduce the amount of drilling water they accept. Many of the plants complied by deciding not to accept that water, she said.
"I would caution people not to jump to conclusions" that the drilling is the source of the problem, Humphreys added.
Nearly 325,000 people in Southwestern Pennsylvania depend on the river for their source of water. The local suppliers include Pennsylvania American, the Municipal Authority of the Borough of Charleroi and Southwestern Pennsylvania Water Authority in Jefferson, Greene County.
Pennsylvania-American continues to field calls from customers over concerns about the water, Lobaugh said.
The hard water especially is a problem for industrial users whose pipes are scaling because of the minerals, Humphreys said.