Pennsylvania American Water is warning the 2,100 households on the Kittanning water system not to use the water because of high pH levels that exceed federal health standards.
The water company is recommending that all of its customers in Kittanning and Applewold and portions of Manor and Rayburn in Armstrong County use bottled water or alternative sources for drinking, bathing, hand washing, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, cooking or food preparation until further notice.
Gary Lobaugh, a water company spokesman, said shortly before noon today that the company began investigating the cause of the spike in PH levels, which were discovered during routine sampling of the finished water this morning.
The system draws its water from the Allegheny River, but Mr. Lobaugh said it does not appear that the water source caused the problem. Instead, he said, an upset in the chemical treatment process was likely.
John Poister, a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman, said the water company reported pH levels of 12.5, possibly due to a "caustic soda contamination," but has isolated the high pH water in a tank 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.
"The company is conducting tests throughout its distribution system, and it doesn't appear that the high-pH water has made its way into the system but they're being cautious," Mr. Poister said.
The water company said in a press release it is taking corrective actions to address the problem, including flushing the system with fresh water.
According to the water company, the measured pH in its system was above the federally established health limit of 10.
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 worsening of skin disorders.
Don Hopey: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1983.