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Alle-Kiski Valley communities cope with water alert

| Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Jeff Swartzlander of Allegheny Township stocks up on cases of bottled water at Sprankle's supermarket in Leechburg during the water crisis at the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispach
Kelly Smith, owner of Mamma K's Kitchen, takes a pot of boiling water off the stove to be used for cooking and cleaning at her Allegheny Township restaurant during the water crisis at the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013.

Kelly Smith had a large, boiling, pot of water on her Allegheny Township restaurant's stove on Friday morning, but it wasn't for food.

Smith's business, Mama K's Kitchen, was one of the thousands of homes and businesses — in 16 Alle-Kiski Valley communities — affected by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County's order to boil water before using it.

The boil-water advisory is expected to continue until at least Tuesday, an authority spokeswoman said.

The water authority said a filtration barrier failed and may have allowed certain contaminants to enter the water system.

“It affects the way we run our business,” Smith said while standing next to a steaming cauldron. “We're boiling everything, we're using disposable utensils.

“I have this huge pot of water because we don't want to run out,” she added. “We have to boil the water for coffee; we can't use any of the ice. We shut off the water faucets in the bathroom and set up hand washing stations.”

Smith said she had bottles of water and pop for guests.

Smith said her business for the day would likely be harmed.

“People probably don't think we're open,” she said, pointing to a half-empty dining room. “We'd normally have more customers than this.”

Water in high demand

The sign on the pallet of bottled water cases near the front door of Sprankle's Market in Leechburg read: “maximum 3 per customer.”

“It's just like a snow day,” said store manager Blodwen Steighner, describing the amount of people in the store. “We're always busy on Fridays, but maybe more so today.”

Steighner said the pallet of bottled water was the second one the store had to put out Friday morning.

She said the store was running out of bottled water and jugs of water, but another shipment was on its way.

Jeff Swartzlander was one of many customers loading up on cases of bottled water.

“We found out last night, but we didn't think it pertained to us,” Swartzlander, 52, of Allegheny Township, said as he lifted a case of water into his shopping cart. “But, obviously, we found out it did.”

Swartzlander said he brushed his teeth and washed clothes in the possibly contaminated water before he found out he was supposed to boil it first.

Leechburg resident Sheila Kardos said she didn't find out about the water situation until about 3:30 Friday morning.

Like Swartzlander, Kardos said she used the water all night Thursday.

“My son called me,” Kardos, 41, said. “That's the only way I found out.”

Kardos said she called family to alert them after she found out.

Swartzlander said not being able to use water normally for a few days is just a minor inconvenience.

“We'll get by,” he said.

Kiski Area, Apollo-Ridge and Leechburg Area school districts closed Friday.

Franklin Regional Superintendent Gennaro Piraino said that once the district determined it could safely hold school, it distributed bottled water to schools, served pre-made food at lunches and used Styrofoam trays to cope.

“We are prepared on Monday with the same level of precautions and procedures” if the advisory is still in effect, Piraino said.

Sam Rubin, who runs Walkers PetHotail in Murrysville, said the dogs at day care were all getting well water. Rubin was upset that the authority did not immediately release information about what was contaminating the water.

“We didn't know if it was a parasite or a chemical,” he said.

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media. Kate Wilcox, a staff writer for Trib Total Media, contributed to this report.

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