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Test results 'good news' for city water

June 10, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Tests of Hagerstown's water supply last year detected eight contaminants but all were found in concentrations far below federal guidelines, according to a tap-water analysis report being mailed to city water customers.

The tests checked for 122 possible contaminants in water samples taken periodically from the two city-owned water plants, points along water pipes and inside 60 homes, City Water Department Manager Gene Walzl said.

Walzl said the test results were "definitely good news" for city water customers.

"We were well below the standards that the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) sets again," Walzl said.

The test results are part of the city's 1998 Consumer Confidence Report, which is being mailed to all 23,000 city water customers from Williamsport to Smithsburg to the Pennsylvania state line to the state prison complex south of Hagerstown.

The reports will go out with customers' water bills over the next three months.

Walzl said the study has been conducted for years, but this is the first time the report will be sent to customers, which is a new federal requirement.

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The detected contaminants included barium, copper, fluoride and lead.

Fluoride, which the city adds to the water, is listed as a contaminant because it could be considered harmful if found to be above a certain concentration.

According to the report, the highest detected concentration of fluoride was a little less than half of the allowable level under federal guidelines.

The detected levels of copper and lead were roughly one-third or lower than the allowable levels. Corrosion of household plumbing is listed as the source of those contaminants in the tested water.

Possible sources of the relatively low levels of the other detected contaminants were runoff, decay of natural and man-made deposits and leaching from septic tanks and sewage, the report says.

The city's water comes from two plants outside Hagerstown.

The R.C. Willson Plant near Williamsport is the city's primary water plant and at times serves all city water customers. The Potomac River is the water source for that plant.

The William M. Breichner Water Plant near Smithsburg can serve roughly half of the area covered by the city's water system. It is primarily used to supplement the Willson plant.

The Edgemont Reservoir is the water source for the Breichner Plant. The reservoir is fed by two streams, the Warner Hollow and the Raven Rock.

At those plants, incoming water is treated and filtered. Chlorine is added to the water to kill bacteria and viruses and lime or caustic soda is added to minimize the corrosive effect of the water on lead and copper plumbing.

For more information contact the Hagerstown Water Department at 301-739-8577, extension 169.

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