The Pennsylvania American Water Company has announced a 48-hour boil advisory for 55 communities in two counties. An estimated 100,000 people have been impacted by the contamination, and the boil advisory pertains to cooking and drinking water, as well as water used for washing dishes, hands, or brushing teeth.
The announcement was precipitated by high levels of turbidity, noticed at the Elrama water treatment plant. According to officials, turbidity can interfere with disinfection processes and create an environment for bacterial growth.
Essentially, it is the measure of clarity in a liquid, like water, and how well it can be seen through. Materials that cause turbidity include clay, silt, and other solids. A high concentration of these particles can present health concerns because they promote bacterial growth.
Not only is cloudy or muddy water unappealing, it provides shelter for pathogens to propagate. If untreated, the problem can lead to water related health outbreaks. Officials explained that although turbidity itself doesn’t necessarily indicate a health risk, it’s always better to solve the issue before it can become more serious.
All customers within the counties designated should use boiled or bottled water not only when it will be ingested. Authorities say to boil water for one minute, then let it cool before making drinks, ice, or brushing teeth, until further notice. residents shouldn’t use it for hand washing either.
Boiling water kills any pathogens or organisms living in the fluid. Although it is an irritation, it is the best precaution to prevent an intestinal infection. Typically the sort of bacteria, viruses or parasites that exist in the contaminated water can cause nausea, diarrhea, and headaches.
People with compromised immune systems, such as the very young or elderly, have a higher susceptibility. Some suggest that avoiding turbid water for all usage is the wisest course for these individuals.
In Allegheny County, two south school district cancelled classes yesterday because of the warning. In Washington County, Trinity Area School District continued with regularly scheduled classes, but placed an alert on their website allowing students to bring their own bottled water for consumption.
The district also explained that the cafeteria would continue to prepare meals, but none would be made using tap water. The school is providing bottled water for any students who do not bring their own. All water fountains and sinks in the district will be covered to prevent use, and hand sanitizer will be available in bathrooms.
Forty Bar & Grille in North Franklin saw a sharp decline in business. Bar owner Robert Merashoff told local reporters, “First my food provider called, then my insurance agents, then some customers called and said, ‘Hey, you saw the warning, didn’t you?’” He added that his customer’s well-being was paramount, so all drinks were made using bottled water.
The Monday night warning was announced along with the steps being taken to eliminate the problem. All impacted water storage tanks are being drained, and the company expects to be able to provide the all clear today.
A water buffalo was available for residents in the township municipal center parking lot in Upper St. Clair, and one community center also provided access to clean water, but residents had to bring their own storage containers.
Fortunately, there have been no reports of illness or side effects from the problem. Officials did not explain what caused the contamination.