DEP says Warwick Twp. violated testing regs, but tap water is fine

By on May 18, 2016
Dan Zimmerman, Warwick Township Manager and WTWA assistant secretary, admitted the WTMA in 2010 reused several sample sites, including tests of his own home and the homes of others associated with the township, “due to not having enough reserve sample sites. Photo by Patrick Burns

Dan Zimmerman, Warwick Township Manager and WTMA assistant secretary, admitted the WTMA in 2010 reused several sample sites, including tests of his own home and the homes of others associated with the township, “due to not having enough reserve sample sites. Photo by Patrick Burns

Warwick Township officials found themselves in hot water Tuesday while discussing errors in copper-lead testing procedures submitted to the state in 2010 and 2013.

The Warwick Township Municipal Authority received a notice of violation letter dated March 17 from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP generated a similar letter to Lititz Borough dated the same day.

The letter, while citing clear violations of water sampling rules in tests in 2010 and 2013, does not suggest water from either source — Lititz or Rothsville — failed to meet DEP-EPA water standards.

Warwick Township Manager Dan Zimmerman, who is also WTMA assistant secretary, admitted the WTMA in 2010 reused several sample sites, including tests of his own home and the homes of others associated with the township “due to not having enough reserve sample sites.”

Zimmerman, who spoke at Tuesday’s WTMA meeting, said officials believed they were within DEP guidelines when they used multiple samples.

He informed the DEP that WTMA had communicated with the department and had its approval to use multiple testing. However, he said there are no documents to support the assertion.

“We picked homes that were willing to volunteer and be sampled,” Zimmerman said. “I can’t go in (homes) and make people sample.”

John Repetz, DEP spokesman, said municipalities have complained about the difficulty in finding homeowners willing to voluntarily participate in the sampling and self-testing .

“Some systems have expressed to DEP their inability to obtain the required number of voluntary participants to provide samples,” Repetz noted in an e-mail.

Reasons for not wanting to participate vary, he said.

“Two of the most common reasons are residents do not want their information to become public and they do not want to be inconvenienced,” Repetz noted.

DEP guidelines use population numbers and previous testing quality results to determine how many homes need to be tested.

It also requires that officials seek “high risk” (Tier 1) homes of any age with known lead service lines or pipes, or homes built between 1982-85 that have copper pipes with lead solder, for testing.

The DEP mandated that tap water be tested for lead and copper in 1993, known as the Lead and Copper Rule, LCR.

Zimmerman, who said his home has copper pipes, noted that Warwick’s public water system dates back only five decades and has no lead issues at its source.

“Given the newness of the WTMA water system, which began providing water service in the late 1970s, there are no known lead pipes or service lines in the WTMA system,” he said.

Due to this, the only way a WTMA customer could be a Tier 1 classification is if their home contains copper pipes with lead solder installed after 1982 but before Jan. 6, 1991.

“In order to identify customers who may meet this criteria, WTMA is using a recently digitized database of Warwick Township building construction data to identify homes constructed within this time frame,” Zimmerman said.

DEP rules require municipalities find volunteer homes to test every three years. Warwick, under DEP scrutiny, is in the process of acquiring test subjects for 2016.

Warwick Township relies on two water sources, including the Rothsville well, which serves 7,500 connections and about 3,300 people.

It also purchases water from Lititz, which connects to 4,200 outlets and serves about 8,000 people.

Carl Hawes, WTMA board member, said Tuesday that a mistake in DEP’s population calculations erroneously required the WTMA to use 30 test samples when it should have needed only 20 samples, meaning the multiple-sampling was unnecessary and the testing was within DEP’s guidelines.

“The way the population was calculated (in 2010) was by EDUs, not by connections,” Hawes said.

“EDUs (equivalent dwelling unit) are higher because if you have one connection, that property could have three EDUs,” he said.

Although the number of possible test homes appears abundant, Zimmerman said very few qualify, especially as Tier 1, high-risk candidates.

Besides the challenge of finding the few homeowners who’ll volunteer, many homes that use water softeners, due to the area’s hard water supply, or dwellings built with plastic pipes, are not usable. Zimmerman rejected a DEP guideline that suggests homes with water softeners are allowable if the softeners are temporarily removed.

He said it’s not possible to effectively temporarily remove the softeners, which makes water more corrosive and could cause lead to leech from pipes.

Zimmerman said WTMA has sent surveys to many of its customers with homes built in Tier 1 classification requesting information regarding their internal home plumbing, the presence or absence of a water softener, and their willingness to participate in the sampling plan.

“We hope to identify enough Tier 1 sites to meet the sampling requirements of the LCR, along with an adequate number of reserve locations,” he said.

The topic of lead in tap water made national news when officials in Flint, Mich., switched to corrosive water source that caused lead to leech from piping.

Unlike the water in Flint, Mich., both Lititz and Warwick Township’s water is safe, according to DEP.

Repetz stressed  the water in both systems “is beneath the EPA action level, and in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water regulations.”

“Lead and copper are just two of the several dozen contaminants for which the water is tested,” Repetz said. “All test results indicate the water is safe for human consumption.”

The most recent test results are available on the DEP website.

Residents that are concerned about lead in their drinking water should have their water tested – more information can be found at www.dep.pa.gov/lead.

Warwick and Lititz are seeking residents to participate in each municipality’s mandated 2016 water testing  should go to:

Rothsville:  www.warwicktownship.org/sites/warwickpa/files/u111/2014_rv_ccr.pdf

Lititz:        www.warwicktownship.org/sites/warwickpa/files/u111/2014_lw_ccr.pdf

 

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments, and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

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