Westmoreland water authority lifts water warning as cleansing byproduct levels fall below limits

Feb. 4—Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County officials have announced a potentially hazardous substance found last fall in a portion of the local water supply has fallen below state and federal guidelines.

In November, about 50,000 water customers south of Route 30 in Westmoreland and Fayette counties were notified that averages of haloacetic acid had exceeded levels allowed under state and federal standards.

The substance is a byproduct of the cleansing process for the public drinking water.

Haloacetic acid is chemical formed when chlorine is added to the water to break down organic material such as leaf fragments, sediment, animal waste and other substances.

According to the state's Department of Environmental Protection, prolonged exposure to high levels of haloacetic acid can cause cancer. It also can be a potential health risk to pregnant women.

Tests from water collected at the Indian Creek Water Treatment Plant near Connellsville, along the Youghiogheny River, one of three sources of drinking water for the authority, conducted in late October found the presence of haloacetic acid reached 65 parts per billion.

The authority was required to notify customers when the chemical level exceeded 60 parts per billion.

"Since the state and federal standards are based on an annual running average, we had to wait three months before official samples were conducted," said authority manager Michael Kukura. "However, since the October exceedance was discovered, our water quality team has worked extensively to correct the exceedance."

Officials said that despite the elevated haloacetic acid level, customers were not at risk. No boil water advisories were issued and no additional filtration efforts were required was needed to correct the issue.

The authority did flush the portion of the water system served by the Connellsville area plant and continued to monitor water samples.

The authority sells water to more than 122,000 customers in Westmoreland, Allegheny, Armstrong Fayette and Indiana counties.

More than half of the authority's water customers, those who live north of Route 30, were not impacted by the warning.

Over the last three months, authority officials altered its cleansing process to compensate for what was unseasonably warmer temperatures last fall, which was a circumstance blamed for causing the elevated chemical level.

"We are pleased with the quick action taken to correct the exceedance," Kukura said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich by email at rcholodofsky@triblive.com or via Twitter .