Boil water notices may be more frequent

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

As a result of more stringent notification requirements by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, when water main leaks or breaks must be repaired, Greencastle Area, Franklin County, Water Authority customers in the vicinity of the repairs may see an increase in boiled water notices.  In addition to public notification requirements for major water system disruptions (extended power outage, pump failure, source outage or depletion of storage), DEP requires notification when there is a loss of positive pressure in the system caused by a main break, repair or replacement and there is evidence of contamination or a high risk of contamination.

When a water main leak or break occurs and a lack of positive pressure results in evidence of contamination or a high risk of contamination, GAFCWA must consult with DEP within one hour of discovering the leak or break regarding the need to issue a boiled water advisory or other appropriate notice.

In the past, experienced GAFCWA maintenance personnel made the determination as to whether or not a boiled water advisory should be made based on the criteria above.  During an April 4 meeting with DEP representatives, GAFCWA was advised that this determination of evidence of contamination or a high risk of contamination must be made by properly-certified personnel. GAFCWA has taken steps to get the necessary personnel certified to make this decision consistent with DEP requirements.

Authority manager Ken Womack stated that at no time has the Authority ever failed to provide a boiled water notice if contamination was even suspected.  

“Our first priority as a water service provider is to ensure a safe and reliable source of water for our customers.” Womack noted that the DEP regulations for water main leaks and breaks required notice only when ‘a loss of positive pressure within the distribution system is caused by a main break, repair or replacement AND there is evidence of contamination OR a high risk of contamination.’

“Only during the April 4 meeting with DEP representatives did we learn that the person making this determination had to be certified.”

Womack expressed concern with liberally issuing boiled water notices. “While we will comply fully with DEP requirements, we don't want to unnecessarily burden our customers with a boiled water notice when there is no evidence of contamination or no high risk of contamination.” Boiled water advisories would likely remain in effect for 48 hours until water samples were tested and found to be free of contamination.  

GAFCWA also has in place a public notification system for major water system disruptions (extended power outage, pump failure, source outage or depletion of storage). This automated dialing system can be quickly activated to notify customers of major water problems.  Womack also notes that it can be used for notifications of other widespread emergencies.  

“The system is only as good as the data we have in it,” Womack stated.  “Customers are encouraged to make sure the Authority has an up-to-date phone number and alternate number on file on where they want to be reached in case of a water system emergency.”

Customers may update their phone number by calling 717-597-7143 or on the borough web site at www.greencastlepa.gov by going to the “Public Notification Link” on the left side of the page.

“A safe and reliable source of water is the ultimate priority of  GAFCWA,” said Jason Gerhart, chairman of the GAFCWA board. “We are confident we have always provided this safe and reliable source and the Authority will fully comply with DEP requirements for reporting.”

Questions may be directed to Womack at 717-597-7143 or kwomack@greencastlepa.gov