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City Pressing Water Authority on Testing

Results expected ‘Tuesday or Wednesday,’ but additional flushing, tests will be needed

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
July 19, 2021
Posted in: Announcements, McKeesport and Region News

City officials said they are pressing the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County to quickly resolve the issues that have kept Lower 10th Ward residents from using their drinking water.

“I have been in constant contact with MAWC since Friday, and I will continue to see this process through,” McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said Monday. “We are doing everything within our power to expedite MAWC’s water-testing process to determine if any contamination took place during the Friday evening fire at McKeesport Auto Body.”

MAWC warned on Saturday morning that chemicals from firefighting foam “may have” entered the drinking water system in the area between the CSX Railroad tracks and the Monongahela River. Some homes on Romine Avenue, Rebecca Street, Arlington Street and West Sixth Avenue also are affected.

MAWC began flushing the system on Saturday as a “precaution” and said it could take up to a week for testing to be completed.

Drinking water tankers — called “water buffaloes” — were placed at R&W Oil and at the sewerage treatment plant, located at opposite ends of Atlantic Avenue, and pallets of drinking water were placed at the Public Safety Building, 201 Lysle Blvd.

On Monday, MAWC spokesman Matt Junker said a third water buffalo has been stationed at the corner of Atlantic and Perry streets.

Junker said water authority employees have collected water samples and have flushed the water lines. Test results from a certified laboratory will be available “Tuesday or Wednesday,” he said.

After consulting with state officials, Junker said, MAWC has concluded that regardless of the test results, “a further round of flushing and testing will be necessary before the water is deemed safe for all uses.”

The water authority is concerned about glycol and PFAs — perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAs are found in a variety of consumer products and also are used in firefighting foam to smother blazes.

However, according to the EPA, PFAs also have been linked to health problems, including low infant birth weights, immune and thyroid disorders and cancers.

Residents of the affected neighborhoods have been advised they may use their tap water for flushing toilets, but not for bathing or showering, cooking or washing dishes, drinking or making ice, or for doing laundry.

Boiling the water, or letting it “settle,” does not remove contamination by glycol or PFAs, the water authority has said.

Showers are available at McKeesport Area High School, 1960 Eden Park Blvd., from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents who want to access the showers should use the right hand entrance to South Hall, near the gymnasium.

Originally published July 19, 2021.

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