Community did its best to cope with Westmoreland County water issue

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No cryptosporidium parasites were present in the water coming from Beaver Run Reservoir when a filter inspection last week prompted the issuing of a boil-water advisory, a Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County executive has said.

Jack Ashton, assistant manager of operations, said at a news conference last week that when a water filter is breached, state Department of Environmental Protection protocol is to have customers boil water as though cryptosporidium were present.

The parasite can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, dehydration, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, according to the Centers for Disease Control website.

At the time of the filter inspection, however, testing showed only algae and diatoms in the water, he said.

Tests that came back Friday showed no cryptosporidium parasites or giardia in the water; tests done Sunday and Monday showed no bacteria in it, Mr. Ashton said. The alert was "precautionary."

The municipal authority issued the boil-water advisory for about 50,000 of its customers last week after a problem with a filter was detected.

Water collected Wednesday at the George R. Sweeney Water Treatment Plant revealed a small depression in part of the filter, which could allow untreated water to bypass the filtration barrier, municipal authority officials said Friday.

On Monday, water authority officials lifted a requirement that residents of North Huntingdon, Irwin, North Irwin, Murrysville, White Oak and other communities boil water.

Over the weekend, Norwin area residents and employees of local businesses described how they dealt with the "boil water" advisory until it was canceled.

On Sunday, an employee of Denny's in North Huntingdon said all water being used for cooking had either been boiled or bottled. Customers couldn't get a glass of water that day, but could order a bottle of water for 99 cents.

The employee said the water temperature in the dishwasher was hot enough to kill microorganisms, making dishes clean.

Jen Mikluscak of Penn Township said she had purchased five cases of bottled water at Costco for $2.68 a case before the advisory was issued.

"We usually don't drink bottled water, but it turned out to be a blessing," she said Sunday.

Late last week, an employee of William Penn Care Center, a nursing home and rehab center in Murrysville, said the hall was stacked with bottled water.

"I've been just buying bottled water," Gayleen Fisher of North Huntingdon said Sunday. "It's an inconvenience and we're doing all we can."

On Sunday, Margie Caulfield of North Huntingdon said she started to brush her teeth with tap water, then ran to the kitchen to get bottled water to finish.

"It's a real mess," she said.

At Giant Eagle in North Huntingdon Sunday, a 6-foot-wide, more than 9-foot-long display of bottled water was piled near the salad bar.

On Monday, Giant Eagle spokesman Dick Roberts declined to answer questions about typical water sales and sales during the advisory, saying it is not Giant Eagle policy to release sales information.

Monday evening, Irwin Councilwoman Gail Macioce said she was relieved to have the advisory lifted, even more so for owners of Irwin restaurants. "The restaurants struggled," she said. "They did a really good job to stay open with paper products and boiled water."

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:

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