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Director: NP Water Authority’s ‘water quality is excellent and the water is safe’

June 30, 2015

NPWA’s annual report for 2014 is now available for the public to peruse, and describes in detail why the water provided by the authority should not cause any worries.

“The bottom line, the most important thing, is that the water quality is excellent and the water is safe,” said NPWA Executive Director Tony Bellitto.

NPWA is headquartered on Forty Foot Road in Towamencin and serves nearly 34,000 customers in more than 20 municipalities across Montgomery and Bucks counties. The 2014 annual report has been mailed to every NPWA customer, and is also available on the authority’s website www.NorthPennWater.org. The report lists several different categories of materials found by sampling, with the numbers of parts per million found during the sampling and the reason or source for those materials.

“We are required by federal and state law to test for a multitude of different parameters, and we test for everything we are required to, and report the levels” to customers in the annual report, Bellitto said.

“The good news is we have no water quality violations, and the water quality is excellent. That really is the bottom line of this report,” he said.

Chlorine was found at levels between 0.94 parts per million from well water and 1.16 parts per million leaving the Forest Park treatment plant, with levels on the average of 0.7 parts per million found throughout the distribution system. The presence of chlorine is expected in all three places because it’s an additive used to control microbe growth in the water.

“The requirements get more difficult every year, and the challenge is to make sure we meet the ever more stringent requirements. It’s a challenge that we are up to, and we accomplish,” he said.

Two other disinfection by-products were also found throughout the distribution system: bromate was found at an average of 1.4 ppm, Haloacetic Acids (HAAs) were found at roughly 7.66 ppm, and total Trihalomethanes were found at 22.8 ppm — all expected levels due to their uses in water disinfection processes, according to Bellitto.

“The requirement to produce such a detailed report is something EPA requires us to provide to our customers, so information about where the source is, how it’s treated, why it’s treated, and what are the parameters we test for,” he said.

Traces of arsenic were found at wells and at the Forest Park plant during the 2012-14 window, and that comes with a caveat — those levels fall below the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s specified standards, which balance the current understanding of health effects caused by arsenic against the cost to remove it. Possible sources of the arsenic levels — between zero and five parts per million, with an average level of one ppm — are several: erosion of naturally occurring deposits, runoff from local orchards, or arsenic produced from the production of glass and electronics.

“It’s all about the concentration — for arsenic, the average level detected was one, and the MCL, maximum contaminant level, is 10, so that’s far below the maximum,” Bellitto said.

“There is no public water supply that has zero of anything in it. It’s not distilled water that we are delivering to our customers that has absolutely nothing in it. The nature of our arsenic is that it’s at extremely low levels,” he said.

Trace levels of three other inorganic compounds were also found at low levels: nitrates were found at levels between zero and 4.5 ppm, with an average of 1.26 ppm at the wells and plant. Nitrate levels more than 10 ppm have been found to pose a health risk for infants less than six months old, and could rise after rain events or agricultural activity, and possible reasons for the levels found during testing include runoff from use of fertilizer, leaching from septic tanks or sewage, and the erosion of natural deposits.

Fluoride and Barium were also found at low levels in samples, and likely for similar reasons: barium can be caused by discharges of drilling waste or discharges from metal refineries, or from natural erosion, and fluoride occurs naturally and can also be found by discharge from fertilizer and aluminum factories.

Customer taps were tested for lead and copper, and levels of both were well below action levels that would require any remediation, with zero out of 33 test sites showing levels above those that would require action. Again, natural deposits could be a source of both lead and copper, as could corrosion of household plumbing systems and, for copper, leaching from wood preservatives.

"Because these amounts are so exceedingly low, we can say with complete confidence that this water is completely safe,” Bellitto said.

Testing was performed for several other inorganic and organic chemicals, and microbiological hazards, all of which were not found. Inorganic chemicals that were tested for, but not detected, in 2015 include antimony, beryllium, cadmium, cyanide, mercury, nickel, nitrite, selenium, and thallium. Microbiological parameters tested for, but not detected, include E. Coli, total coliform bacteria, and cryptosporidium, and more than four dozen organic chemicals were monitored but not found — the complete list can be found in the annual report.

“The analogy I like to use about concentrations is: if you ask about anything that a person consumes, such as aspirin, is that good for you or bad? The answer is always about the concentration,” he said.

“If you take two aspirin, they’ll probably help you. If you consume an entire bottle of aspirin, you die, so the question is not necessarily the presence or absence of any parameter, or any chemical, the question is the amount — the concentration means everything,” said Bellitto.

That report can be found at the NPWA offices, 300 Forty Foot Road in Towamencin, or at all municipal offices and public libraries in the water authority’s service area. Copies can also be found of the 2014 report and those from prior years on the authority’s website www.NPWA.org or by emailing info@northpennwater.org.

And for those wondering, the water authority is still on schedule with its planned repainting of its water tower near Third and Richardson Streets in Lansdale. The interior of the tank is currently being painted, according to Bellitto, and the exterior should be painted in time for the borough’s Founders Day celebrations on Aug. 29.

 

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North Penn Water Authority
300 Forty Foot Road
Lansdale, PA 19446
Phone: 215.855.3617
Fax: 215.855.2756
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215.855.9945
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800.426.4791
info@npwa.org
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