Kittanning without drinking water

High pH triggers boil water order

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Residents of Kittanning and surrounding municipalities remain without drinkable water because of problems at Pennsylvania American Water's treatment plant on the Allegheny River.

The water company issued a boil water order Friday evening to the 2,100 households in Kittanning Borough and Applewold, and portions of Manor and Rayburn townships, Armstrong County. On Friday morning those residents were warned not to use their tap water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth or even bathing.

Gary Lobaugh, a water company spokesman, said the do-not-use warning was necessary because routine sampling tests the company did Friday morning found the finished water in the system had extremely high pH levels that exceeded federal health standards.

John Poister, a state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman, said the water company reported pH levels of 12.5, possibly due to a "caustic soda contamination," but was able to isolate the high pH water at the treatment plant.

The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, and the pH of distilled water is 7, or neutral. A pH lower than 7 is acidic, and above 7 is alkaline. The normal pH level for finished water in the system is 8.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, water with a pH above 10 can cause health problems for people consuming or using it, including risk of skin and eye irritation and possible exacerbation of skin disorders.

Mr. Poister said the water company conducted tests throughout its distribution system, and it doesn't appear that the high pH water made its way into the system but "they're being cautious."

The water company took corrective actions to address the problem, including flushing the system with fresh water and placing water tank trucks at three locations to provide alternative water supplies to its customers.

Shutting down the treatment plant resulted in a loss in positive water pressure, which could have allowed contamination to enter the distribution system through backflow. Therefore, the company said, until further notice, customers are under a boil water advisory.

region - environment

Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.


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