Elevated lead levels that temporarily occurred in water delivered to some customers of West View Water Authority have been corrected, the utility said Monday.
No more than 1,100 homes and businesses among West View Water's customers in Allegheny, Beaver and Butler counties would have been affected, estimated Joseph Dinkel, the utility's executive director of operations. The higher levels occurred in older buildings with lead water pipes.
"The lead is no longer a problem," he said.
"There were never levels high enough to pose a health risk," said Guillermo Cole, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department, who agreed with Mr. Dinkel's assessment of the situation.
High lead levels can cause health problems, especially for infants, young children and pregnant women.
Occupants of older homes do not need to have their water tested, Mr. Cole and Mr. Dinkel said. Residents concerned about drinking water picking up lead from pipes should let the faucet run for 30 seconds or until the water feels cool, Mr. Cole suggested.
The higher lead levels occurred because of changes the authority had made in its treatment methods. When tests showed elevated lead levels had been found in some samples during water testing, the utility changed the treatment method again and sent letters to its 55,000 customers, warning them about the elevated levels. The letters were dated Dec. 10, but some customers in the North Boroughs did not receive their copies until last week.
The treatment change occurred about two years ago when West View Water began adding chloramines to its water during warmer weather. Chloramines are formed when ammonia is added to chlorine. Approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as a water disinfectant, chloramines provide longer-lasting treatment of water and reduce the formation of disinfection byproducts called trihalomethanes. Chloramines, however, have the side effect of dissolving lead-containing compounds from the inside of older water pipes that serve individual homes and businesses. None of West View's water mains are made of lead.
Tests were done at about 100 sites during mid-summer 2010 and higher lead levels were found at 10 or fewer locations, Mr. Dinkel estimated. The company stopped using chloramines in the fall.
"You try to correct one problem -- trihalomethanes -- and you shoot yourself in the foot with another," he said.
The federal Safe Water Drinking Act required West View Water to send letters explaining the dangers of lead after the testing revealed levels of the metal that exceeded the "action level" of 15 parts per billion molecules at some testing sites.
Once the company stopped chloramine treatment, the lead levels fell back below 15 parts per billion, Mr. Cole said.
West View Water Authority has customers in 32 municipalities. Its service area has a population of about 200,000 and covers about 100 square miles.
Customers seeking additional information about the Dec. 10 letter can call the water authority at 412-931-3292 or visit the company's website at www.westviewwater.org.
Len Barcousky: email@example.com or 412-263-1159.