Hard water not appreciated by township man

By PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Trying to stay ahead of calcium deposits in his water heater, Brian Funk crafted a cleaning device of hose and duct tape.

An Antrim Township man is irked by the area’s hard water. Brian Funk, 1033 Dallas Drive, became a one-man advocate of municipal intervention. He asked Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority to soften the water leaving the treatment plant.

Funk, 41, contacted local and state officials about the damage the water has done to his water heater by mineral deposits from the hard water. He received a telephone call from Dave Nichols, Greencastle public works manager.

“He seemed understanding,” said Funk. But no solution was offered.

Everyone he has spoken to has recommended a water softener, since Greencastle is known for its hard water. But since Funk pays for the water provided by GAFCWA, he wanted them to provide a safe product. After all, the borough spent lots of money at the wastewater treatment plant, he noted.

“They are treating the water that’s leaving my house, but not the water that’s entering my house.”

The problem

Funk rented out his home for many years while he lived out of state. He recently moved back to Greencastle, and is puzzled why problems just began. In February he pulled 20 pounds of calcium deposits out of the water heater and replaced two heating elements. In November he took out another eight pounds and replaced the elements again.

Every 30-45 days he drains the 50-gallon heater to try to keep it functioning properly. He has replaced coffee makers and is having trouble with the dishwasher.

A neighbor without a softener didn’t appear to have any issues, so Funk wonders why his house is hit so hard. It is the first property in his section of Shadow Creek Estates.

Lisa Kasianowitz, DEP Information Specialist, issued an explanation on the phenomenon.

“Hard water is a function of geology and water chemistry. Hardness results from dissolution of geologic formations (minerals) containing calcium, magnesium and silica. If the water becomes supersaturated with these minerals, a scale can be formed in water system piping, hot water heaters, and so on.”

The Pennsylvania Water Science Center states on its website that hard water is classified as that which has greater than 120 milligrams per liter of calcium carbonate. Hard water usually indicates high concentrations of dissolved solids and major ions, such as chloride and sulfate.

No cheap remedy

Ken Womack, former GAFCWA manager, said the water treatment plant meets all DEP standards as required under the Municipal Authority Act. Water hardness does not have to be addressed.

“The water authority discussed softening the water in the past,” he said, “but it is not economically feasible. It would be a tremendous cost, and people would pay a lot more than they do for a softener.”

Womack added that well water can be just as hard. “It’s all hard around here because of the shale.”

GAFCWA draws from Moss Spring, Eshelman-Spangler Springs, Ebberts Spring, and three wells as needed.

Kasianowitz provided a list of public water systems using water softeners. The vast majority were businesses and institutions serving communities. A few municipalities in Pennsylvania do soften water for their customers.

The manager of the water treatment plant for Coraopolis Water and Sewer Authority in Allegheny County said they use permanganate to treat the water. Tons of the salt are trucked in. The authority has been providing the service for the 18 years of his employment.

Residential rates in Coraopolis are a quarterly minimum of $57.04 for up to 5,000 gallons, and $11.41 per 1,000 gallons after that. In Greencastle, the rates are a quarterly minimum of $75.60 for up to 9,000 gallons, and $8.40 per 1,000 gallons after that.

Giving in

Funk admits he will likely buy a water softener, but he really just wants someone to come over and explain why the problem is so current. He is not looking forward to spending up to $900 for the equipment to treat his water.

Spokesmen from Zarger’s Plumbing & Heating and Eberly’s Plumbing & Heating agreed that if water is particularly hard, a softener is a good idea. Otherwise, the calcium can build up in pipes, faucets and heaters and cause damage.