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Officials: Latest Trafford water notification likely a result of bad monitoring data

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By Chris Foreman
Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Though the Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority issued public notification last week that it “violated a treatment technique,” the water supply for customers in Trafford and 21 other communities wasn't contaminated, officials for the authority and Allegheny County Health Department said.

Mark Lerch, the authority's director of supply, attributed the May 27 notification on the authority's website to state regulations that require the authority to disclose a situation that involved potentially bad data from water monitoring in the third and fourth quarters of 2013 instead of a legitimate threat to water quality.

The data would appear to show that the authority put contaminants into the source water instead of removing them, leading authority officials to believe that some figures were “flip-flopped” between the testing and the lab analysis, Lerch said. Officials haven't been able to determine where the mistake in data happened, he said.

The notification states that there was no “immediate risk” to the water supply, so customers didn't have to boil water before drinking it.

“There's nothing wrong with the water,” Lerch said. “Nobody has to do anything.”

An official for the Allegheny County Health Department's public drinking-water division, which inspects and has oversight over the authority's system, confirmed that there were no health risks.

“I'm a customer of Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint, and I didn't run out and buy bottled water,” said John Jeffries, the division supervisor. “I drank faucet water.”

The notification was the authority's third public acknowledgement of a violation this year.

In mid-January, the authority announced that it failed to notify the state Department of Environmental Protection, Allegheny County Health Department or its 40,000 customers about the necessity for a boil-water notice during a 19-day period in November when the water supply did not meet disinfection standards. John Poister, DEP spokesman, said last week that a fine is pending in that instance.

In a report that the authority issued this month, officials also said they were two days late in January for taking quarterly samples for contaminants.

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