“A dispute over drinking water safety in Upper Dublin has come to a head, with town officials and state Rep. Tom Murt, R-152, of Upper Moreland, calling for water utility Aqua Pennsylvania to shut down two public drinking water wells in the area.
Aqua has taken one of the wells offline, but is leaving the other in service as it evaluates treatment options.
‘This isn’t just snap your fingers (and it’s done),’ said Chris Crockett, chief environmental officer with Aqua. ‘We need to make sure we’re protecting people’s health and not doing knee jerk reactions.’
The dispute is over the presence of perfluorinated chemicals, also known as PFAS, in the water wells. The chemicals are most known due to their prior contamination of drinking water supplies in Horsham, Warminster and Warrington. Those towns have instituted plans to remove the chemicals to below detectable levels…
Aqua, a large private water utility serving residents across southeast Pennsylvania, has tested for PFAS chemicals in 26 water sources spread through the region since 2016, posting results online at waterfacts.com. During the course of that testing, it found two wells serving a portion of Upper Dublin contained levels of the chemicals.
Upper Dublin residents are served by three water utilities: Aqua, the North Wales Water Authority, and Ambler Borough. Aqua physically covers about a third of the township, serving about 40 percent of residents, Crockett said. Their coverage area includes all areas south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and also a section north of the turnpike roughly bounded by Susquehanna Road to the west and the township line to the east, and Broad Street and Jarrettown Road to the north.
Aqua’s North Hills well, located just south of Chelsea Avenue in Abington, has had the higher levels of the two wells serving customers in Upper Dublin. When last tested on June 27, the well had a combined 43.1 ppt of the chemicals, with PFOS accounting for 40 ppt. That’s nearly level with the 43.9 ppt amount when first tested in August 2016. In between, levels peaked at 58.7 ppt in April 2017 and hit a low of 21 ppt in December 2016.
According to Aqua, that well was taken offline July 27, two days after Upper Dublin manager Paul Leonard and several township residents raised concerns about the wells during a meeting held by the EPA in Horsham. Crockett said the well was taken offline because it was the well in their system with the highest levels of the chemicals. He also believes the chemicals will eventually be regulated at a lower level than what is currently in the North Hills well…
Aqua says it will either leave the well offline or install treatment before returning it to service, except in the case of excessive demands such as a drought or fire. The company is not sure it will be able to install a carbon filtration on the well to remove the chemicals due to limited space at the site.
That still leaves Aqua with a well off Jarrettown Road near Pine Run Park. Commonly called the Aidenn Lair well but listed on Aqua’s website as the Upper Dublin Township Well, water there was at 17.8 ppt when last tested July 16. That measurement is toward the lower end of results over the past two years, which typically were between 20 to 35 ppt.
Aqua said that well will remain in service as the company designs a carbon treatment system for it and applies for state and local permits. It estimated six to nine months before the filtration system is installed and operational.
That doesn’t sit well with Leonard, who said in an interview the town wants Aqua to take the well offline and purchase water from the neighboring North Wales Water Authority for the time being…
Leonard provided a letter from North Wales Water Authority to the township stating they have the capacity to sell replacement water to Aqua in Upper Dublin, or even to take over Aqua’s infrastructure and begin providing service. North Wales has an advanced water treatment plant that company reports say produces water that regularly shows the level of PFAS chemicals ‘at or close’ to non-detect, or typically about 2 to 5 ppt of the chemicals.
Murt echoed the request that Aqua shut down the well in a news release Wednesday, adding he also sent a letter to Christopher Franklin, Aqua PA’s president and CEO. He said the ‘six to 12’ months to leave the well online as treatment is installed was not acceptable.
‘This time frame is simply too long,’ Murt stated. ‘With the safety of our drinking water in question, I believe it is wise to immediately shutdown both Aqua wells.’
Asked why Aqua was opposed to buying water and shutting the well down, Crockett said the utility is not comfortable making a speedy switch. He said engineers would have to study such a switch first to make sure it wouldn’t negatively affect other aspects of water quality or water pressure. He also said water in the interconnection flows from Aqua into North Wales, not the other way around.”
Read the full article by Kyle Bagenstose