Recent contamination threatens Berks water sources

PART II

By Anthony Orozco
Journalist for Berks Vital Signs

 November 4, 2019 -- While farming has a reputation for impairing local waterways, Berks watersheds also face an ongoing onslaught from other manmade threats and contamination risks:

  • Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection fined Sunoco $148,000 for negatively affecting water wells in Berks, Chester and Lebanon counties. The construction of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline, built to transport natural gas liquids east from western Pennsylvania and neighboring states, tainted 16 private wells.

  • DEP is almost halfway through a year-long testing initiative, inspecting more than 300 water systems across the state. That testing is looking for particularly common and toxic chemicals known as PFAS and PFOS.

Nature presents its own hazards.

Municipalities and institutions such as universities and prisons that must meet specific standards are required to obtain permits for discharges of storm water from their storm sewer systems. Over the past year, those systems have been put to the test. A historic amount of rain in Berks caused some sewer plants to overflow into waterways

Water system violations   

Water systems are at risk of being poorly monitored and poorly managed, allowing people to drink water that has high levels of contaminants or disinfectants.

The EPA has an online list of water system violations by state and county that date back two decades. There are hundreds of violations of private and community water systems in Berks County listed in that database. 

The community water system in Berks with the largest number of violations has been Lenape Hills Trailer Park, Washington Township, with 436 violations. The system serves 44 people. Violations at Lenape Hills included failure to report certain chemicals in the water, failure to notify consumers of those chemicals, and failure to monitor for certain materials.

 

Community water systems in Berks with more than 100 violations and serving more than 500 people:

Muhlenberg Township Municipal Authority: 148 violations (21,000 people served)

North Heidelberg Water System: 143 (1,350)

Womelsdorf Robesonia Joint Authority: 131 (7,070)

Caernarvon Township Authority: 121 (4,245)

Fleetwood Borough Water System: 120 (4,218)

Lyons Borough: 120 (500)

Maidencreek Township Water Authority: 118 (7,505)

Boyertown Municipal Authority: 110 (8,000)

Birdsboro Municipal Water Authority: 106 (5,353)

 

The next part of this series looks at the challenges of maintaining safe water systems, community water systems versus private wells, fluoridation, and a plan to replace water lines in Reading that contain lead.

 

Source water protection plans

Source water protection plans identify a community water system’s source of water. They also evaluate what geographic areas should be protected and what steps should be taken to preserve the water’s quality. The plans also identify existing contamination threats, possible contingency plans if the water source is corrupted, and long- and short-term goals for the protection area.

Currently, only 30 of the nearly 80 community water systems in Berks have source water protection plans in place:

 

System Name

Source water municipality

Population served

Source

Reading Area Water Authority

Ontelaunee

87,000

surface water

PAW Penn District

Spring Township

29,525

ground water

Western Berks Water Authority

Shillington

25,000

surface water

PAW Glen Alsace

Exeter

23,750

ground water

Muhlenberg Township Municipal Authority

Muhlenberg

21,000

ground water

Mount Penn Municipal Water Authority

Mount Penn

10,400

ground water

Kutztown Borough Water

Kutztown

8,600

ground water

Boyertown Municipal Authority*

Boyertown

7,775

ground and surface water

Maidencreek Township Water Authority

Maidencreek

7,337

ground water

Womelsdorf Robesonia Joint Authority

Womelsdorf

7,070

ground water

Wernersville Municipal Water Authority

Wernersville

6,357

ground water

Birdsboro Municipal Water Authority

Birdsboro

5,353

surface water

Hamburg Municipal Water & Sewer Authority

Hamburg

4,990

ground water

Fleetwood Borough Water System

Fleetwood

4,218

ground water

Caernarvon Township Authority

Caernarvon

4,139

ground water

Oley Township Municipal Authority

OLEY

2,204

ground water

Shoemakersville Borough Water System

Shoemakersville

2,150

ground water

RAWA-North Heidelberg

North Heidelberg

1,350

ground water

Village of Pleasant Hill

Tilden

1,200

ground water

Bernville Borough Authority

Bernville

1,010

ground water

Lyons Borough

Lyons

500

ground water

Maxatawny Township Municipal Authority

Maxatawny

425

ground water

WBWA-Mohrsville Water

Centre

375

ground water

Laurel Health Resources

Tilden

240

ground water

PAW Golden Oaks

Fleetwood

100

ground water

Country View mobile home park

Longswamp

98

ground water

Geisingers mobile home park

Hereford

90

ground water

Urban Acres mobile home park

Alsace

80

ground water

Meadows at Bethel mobile home park

Bethel

50

ground water

Valley View mobile home park Blandon

Richmond

50

ground water

 

* In queue to obtain plan

 

 

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