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Lawsuit claims Westmoreland water in danger

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Executives with a local company filed a lawsuit against the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County claiming that the drinking water it sells is in danger of contamination.

John H. Schwartz of New Stanton and Louis Robare of Greensburg, officials with Cross Connection Control Management Inc. in New Stanton, claim the authority failed to enforce its own rules requiring customers to ensure its water remains separate from waste, chemicals and other potential contaminants.

Their company is hired to inspect and repair cross connection control issues for customers.

Schwartz and Robare contend the authority is violating the Safe Drinking Water Act by failing to implement its current plan to enforce a cross-connection control program.

The authority's plan requires that customers have separate lines, one to carry drinking water and another to take backflow of contaminated water.

"It's not that we think the water system is unsafe, it's just that it is exposed to risk," said David Millstein, Schwartz and Robare's attorney. "We're not aware of any back flow of chemicals getting into the water supply, but water could become sucked back into the system in a disaster such as a tornado. "

According to the lawsuit, the authority has implemented its protection plan on less than 1 percent of the water agency's 123,000 customers. The plan has not been implemented for any of the authority's new customers since 1994, the suit said.

Millstein said his clients want the cross-connection program fully implemented to protect the water supply from contamination that could result from a natural disaster.

His clients want a Westmoreland County judge to order the authority to implement its plan and require all of its customers to comply with its provisions.

Authority Solicitor Ken Burkley said he has not reviewed the lawsuit and could not comment on its specific allegations.

"We have no problems or issues with the water quality at the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County," Burkley said.

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