Tag Archives: water contamination

The Latest: Unclear When Boil-Water Advisory Will Lift


COLUMBIA, S.C. — Oct 9, 2015, 12:35 PM ET

The latest on the rainstorm that pounded parts of the East Coast (all times local):

12:15 p.m.

While Columbia officials are confident they will not lose water service, they can’t say when most of the city’s 375,000 customers will be able to stop boiling water before they drink it.

Assistant City Manager Missy Gentry says Columbia is trucking in water and laying pipes from two nearby rivers to make sure water remains in the Columbia Canal, which is the chief source for drinking water.

An advisory telling people to boil water was issued during Sunday’s rainstorm, and Columbia Utilities Director Joey Jaco says he can’t say when that may be lifted. He says crews must finish repairing numerous breaks in the system first.

The advisory has left thousands scrambling for bottled water and businesses shut down. Restaurants that are open are serving meals off paper plates and drinks from cans.


The largest hospital in Columbia shut down its water supply for 12 hours as it set up an alternative source of water.

Palmetto Health Richland Hospital shut down its water system at 6 p.m. Thursday, restoring service at 6 a.m. Friday.

Hospital officials said they acted because the city of Columbia does not know when it will be able to provide safe drinking water.

Hospital spokeswoman Tammie Epps says the U.S. Army has provided a reverse osmosis system to purify the water so it can be used. Epps says the system was flushed and cleaned during the 12-hour shutdown. She says the water from the Army system is being tested for 24 hours before it can be relied upon.

The hospital is continuing to use the un-filtered, city-provided water for its air conditioning and certain other equipment.


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Water Fracking Can Harm Water Wells

frack.water_-638x420Photo Credit: Shutterstock

PITTSBURGH — Six years into a natural gas boom, Pennsylvania has for the first time released details of 243 cases in which companies prospecting for oil or gas were found by state regulators to have contaminated private drinking water wells.

The Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday posted online links to the documents after the agency conducted a “thorough review” of paper files stored among its regional offices. The Associated Press and other news outlets have filed lawsuits and numerous open-records requests over the last several years seeking records of the DEP’s investigations into gas-drilling complaints.

Pennsylvania’s auditor general said in a report last month that DEP’s system for handling complaints “was woefully inadequate” and that investigators could not even determine whether all complaints were actually entered into a reporting system.

DEP didn’t immediately issue a statement with the online release, but posted the links on the same day that seven environmental groups sent a letter urging the agency to heed the auditor general’s 29 recommendations for improvement.

“I guess this is a step in the right direction,” Thomas Au of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club chapter said of the public release of documents on drinking well problems. “But this is something that should have been made public a long time ago.”

The 243 cases, from 2008 to 2014, include some where a single drilling operation impacted multiple water wells. The problems listed in the documents include methane gas contamination, spills of wastewater and other pollutants, and wells that went dry or were otherwise undrinkable. Some of the problems were temporary, but the names of landowners were redacted, so it wasn’t clear if the problems were resolved to their satisfaction. Other complaints are still being investigated.

The gas-rich Marcellus Shale lies under large parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York and Ohio. A drilling boom that took off in 2008 has made the Marcellus the most productive natural gas field in the nation, and more than 6,000 shale gas wells have been drilled. That has led to billions of dollars in revenue for companies and landowners, but also to complaints from homeowners about ruined water supplies.

Extracting fuel from shale formations requires pumping millions of gallons of water, along with sand and chemicals, into the ground to break apart rock and free the gas. Some of that water, along with other heavy metals and contaminants, returns to the surface.

The documents released Thursday listed drilling-related water well problems in 22 counties, with most of the cases in Susquehanna, Tioga, Lycoming, and Bradford counties in the northeast portion of the state.

Some energy companies have dismissed or downplayed the issue of water well contamination, suggesting that it rarely or never happens.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, the main industry group, suggested that geology and Pennsylvania’s lack of standards for water well construction were partly to blame.

Coalition president Dave Spigelmyer said in statement Thursday that Pennsylvania “has longstanding water well-related challenges, a function of our region’s unique geology — where stray methane gas is frequently present in and around shallow aquifers.” He said many of the problems were related to surface spills, not drilling.

“Our industry works closely and tirelessly with regulators and others to ensure that we protect our environment, striving for zero incidents,” Spigelmyer said.


Online: http://bit.ly/1lyMfGG

by Rubinkam of the Associate Press

Water alert is issued to residents of Pelee Island

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 10.47.54 AMPhoto illustration by Justin Rose, creative director, the Quell Group

Residents of Canada’s Pelee Island have been warned to drink only bottled water and to stay away from the beaches as toxic Lake Erie algae has reached its shores.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit issued an alert on Tuesday, warning residents that the blue-green algae bloom is affecting the water quality along the island’s shoreline. The microcystin that contaminated Toledo’s water system, rendering the water undrinkable from Aug. 2-4, is affecting private well water systems on Pelee Island, authorities said.

The officials also warned residents not to bathe in or cook with the contaminated water and not to eat fish from the lake. Authorities closed the beaches and advised against swimming.

Toxic algae blooms have developed on Lake Erie since the mid-1990s, and the contaminants overwhelmed Toledo’s water treatment plant on Aug. 2, driving the level of the toxin microcystin above the 1 part per billion level the World Health Organization says is safe.

A do-not-drink advisory was issued for more than 500,000 customers. For more than two days, residents scrambled to find bottled water. People had to avoid tap water to cook, bathe, dishes, or laundry.


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Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2014/08/27/Water-alert-is-issued-to-residents-of-Pelee-Island.html#OLtA8bSzrJHDBu41.99


SteveJurvetsonPhoto by Steve Jurvetson

Many people who called the Escondido hospital were seeking advice on whether to use tap water — but not necessarily for themselves, said Dr. Jerry Kolins, the hospital’s chief medical quality officer.

Some asked about watering their tomatoes. Others wondered if their pets would be safe lapping up water that was not considered safe for humans. Suddenly, Palomar’s emergency-department staff was expected to be an authority not just on people but on all manner of flora and fauna.

“I knew that the hospital was positioned in the eyes of many as a place to get information on all health-related matters, but I didn’t know that expectation went beyond human health,” Kolins said with a chuckle.

The Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District declared the boil-water order on Aug. 15, after detecting fecal coliform bacteria in part of its system. The order lasted through the weekend; tap water could not be used unless first boiled to erase any possibility of bacterial contamination.

It forced the hospital to quickly rethink its approach to serving patients and staff.

Rather than having orderlies running around the hospital’s nine stories with pots of boiling water, Palomar’s administrators decided to temporarily set aside everything linked to tap water. That meant every ice machine, every coffee maker, every dish, every cup, every utensil in the facility.

Palomar’s food staff switched to paper cups and plates and disposable utensils. Bottled water replaced filtered tap water, and instant coffee stood in for brewed beans.

All in all, patients took to the sudden changes without much complaining, said Valerie Martinez, the hospital’s director of infection control.

“I think the biggest complaint was coffee. We did have instant coffee, but I guess it just wasn’t the same,” Martinez said.

Ice was a larger challenge, she remembered. With no way to know for sure whether the hospital’s many ice machines were contaminated, ice runs became a necessity.

“We had to make sure it came from a source that was outside the water district,” Martinez said.

There were 200 patients, on average, in hospital rooms over that boil-water weekend and several hundred more people when Palomar employees and visitors were included.

Unlike food service, the hospital’s surgical department was able to keep working throughout the weekend. Martinez explained that the autoclaves used to sterilize surgical equipment are so powerful that there is no concern of contaminated water causing an infection.

The boil-water order ended on the night of Aug. 17, but that did not mean everything immediately went back to business as usual.

All appliances that use water had to be cleaned and sanitized according to manufacturers’ directions, a process that took a day and a half to complete. While there was still plenty of cleaning work left to do, the food services department resumed serving lunch with flatware by lunchtime Monday.

In the end, Kolins said having the hospital’s water supply suddenly stopped up was a learning experience that he didn’t expect.

“This is something we didn’t prepare for in medical school,” Kolins said.

Article by Paul Sisson of the Union Tribune
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Thousands told to boil water in Escondido

Glass of Water

6,300 customers in the Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District warned to Boil their water

By J. Harry Jones of the Union Tribune

— Thousands of people in the Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District in northern Escondido are being told not to drink their tap water without boiling it first, after random testing showed the presence of coliform bacteria, water district officials said.

The notice affects 6,300 of the district’s 7,800 customers who live in the northern part of the city and in the area around Auto Park Way, which includes many businesses, said water district spokeswoman Julia Scamilla.

The order will likely be in effect until Sunday or even longer, she said.

Coliform bacteria is naturally present in the environment, but its presence is also used as an indicator that other, potentially harmful, bacteria may be present. Pending further testing, the district is advising customers to use boiled tap water or bottled water for drinking and cooking as a safety precaution.

The district has two sources of water that is delivered to customers according to specific geographic boundaries. The boil-water notice is specific to Rincon customers with account numbers starting with: 01 through 48, 94, 96, and 97.

The district said water needed for cooking or drinking should be boiled for five minutes, and then cooled before using. Customers could also use bottled water instead.

Failure to follow the advisory could result in stomach or intestinal illness, the district said.

For updates visit www.rinconwater.org and click on Breaking News.

Random testing conducted Tuesday led to the discovery of the bacteria, Scamilla said.

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