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Hampton Shaler Water Authority testing confirms water is safe

| Monday, May 22, 2017, 3:27 p.m.

The Hampton Shaler Water Authority regularly tests water for its customers, whether required or voluntarily, and results are encouraging.

For instance, as a reassurance to its customers, the HSWA provided a voluntary report last year showing schools in the Hampton Township are well below any concerning lead levels, according to Sam Scarfone, director.

“HSWA tested our schools because we felt our customers would want assurance that their children are not being exposed to lead,” said Scarfone.

He said the main reasoning for lead in water is corrosion of pipes.

“I really didn't expect to find high levels at the schools but it's always nice to know for sure,” he said.

While schools are not required for testing, the EPA does requires testing for homes, said Scarfone. Its criteria for a testing site is a residence with a lead water service line or a home that was built between 1983 and 1988. EPA considers these homes as TIER 1 sampling sites, according to Scarfone.

The EPA requires action to be taken for anything tested at or above 15 parts per billion. Central Elementary was detected low at a level of 2 parts per billion, Poff at 3, Hampton Middle School at 4 and Hampton High School at 8.

The report also showed Shaler Area schools having low levels.

When asked why the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) has reported as having elevated lead levels, Scarfone said it's important to know that lead usually comes into water from corrosion of pipes, not the water supplier facility, and the HSWA uses “hexametaphosphate” to help reduce levels.

He said PWSA uses a “PH adjustment for corrosion control which by industry standards is not as effective,” he said.

The PWSA reported the 90th percentile of homes were at 18 parts per billion in December 2016, above the 15 parts per billion threshold per EPA regulations, according to an online report.

The hexametaphosphate can be described as a “phosphate-based corrosion inhibitor,” and has been used for more than 25 years in Hampton, he said.

In addition, the EPA does require a Consumer Confidence Report to be conducted by public water suppliers. Scarfone said the CCR report for 2016 was posted online just last week. And the February 2017 water quality report was just recently added to the HSWA website, which is updated seasonally.

The EPA requires HSWA to take 30 samples every three years at Tier 1 sites, so the next round won't be due until 2019, said Scarfone.

In regard to residences, the HSWA tested 15 homes last year built between the 1983 to 1988 timeline and found these to be well below the 15 parts per billion, with the 90th percentile to be 2 parts per billion, according to its online report.

While it doesn't regulate water testing, Allegheny County does inspect the actual water supplier facilities, said Jim Kelly, deputy director of environmental health at Allegheny County. He said for residents with older homes and aging infrastructure to test for lead.

“A simple water filter can make an easy fix,” said Kelly.

He said it's most important for those with very young children who are more susceptible to effects of lead.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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